Written by our founder, Meghan Gardner

As many of you know, I spend time each week volunteering for Hospice. Over the many months of sitting and chatting with my 90 year old patient, listening to his stories, laughing and drying tears, I have grown deeply fond of our time together. This past week, I was putting on my jacket to leave and he was unusually quiet.

I took his hand in mine and asked him if he was okay. He looked at our hands for a moment and then looked into my eyes and said that I am the first “unconditional relationship” he has ever had.

My heart broke when he said this. On my drive home I couldn’t help the tears.

Obviously all relationships have causes and conditions… I would have never met my patient if he wasn’t enrolled in the program for which I work. And as a non-medical volunteer, there are things I cannot do for him due to policy and lack of training. But that wasn’t what he meant.

What he meant was that he truly felt that I could accept whatever emotional or physical or mental state he was in. I could allow him to be jovial, or chivalrous, or frustrated, or afraid, or even too tired to talk. To me, this was simply a part of my job. To him, it was a feeling of acceptance that he hasn’t found before in his long life. And this is what hurt my heart.

Our company and our staff try to help our kids and teens feel accepted – no matter how out of place they feel in the rest of their lives. Yes, we have to have boundaries around safe and appropriate manifestations of emotions. But we strive to help them understand that their feelings are never wrong.  

It warms my heart when we hear our students, campers, and parents express that this is the first time they have ever been a part of something where they felt that they truly belonged. This sense of belonging comes from feeling a sense of acceptance.

In our adventures, we strive to give our heroes a chance to think about big questions like life and death… especially around the Day of the Dead and the Spring Equinox events.  We present stories from different cultures around the world to inspire our kids and teens to engage in important conversations.  And through it all, we try to honor their perspective, beliefs, and hopes.

It is my own hope that all of our heroes can live a long and healthy life, and at the end of that life, be able to recall a strong and consistent feeling of having been unconditionally accepted.  

If this is true, then we Guardians have done our job.