Yes. You heard right. That is her real last name. Release your chuckles. Let them flutter wistfully into the sky like cocoon-hatched butterflies. It's Horney. But as Bill Shakespeare said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Eh, what's in a name?" The origins of that surname isn't anywhere near as provocative as many might think/hope. They're actually pretty commonplace. (It's an English derevation meaning one who lives in a cove, or river bend. And it's possible that it has something to do with herons too.) Too bad, that neither Karel, nor any member of the Horney family in subject here is anywhere near common. Karel's (and the Horney family's) collective outlook and personality makes them so wonderfully exceptional it's difficult to capture in words.
All in the family
Shel Silverstein's 1964 classic The Giving Tree is the probably the best parallel for their familial excellence. Karel and Bob and Jared and Adam* (the Adam in Adam's Camp) give anything and everything, offering metaphorical branches from which to swing, allegorical leaves and theoretical sittin' stumps. They pretty much typify kindness, giving and caring. They are that book. But with jokes. Really good jokes that never stop coming. If you're in any mood other than giddy deliciousness after speaking with them, I will eat my hat.
But even that isn't quite enough to sum up why Karel is so special. She is the Executive Director of Adam's Camp, an organization she started with her family 26 years ago. Adam's Camp serves children and youth with developmental disabilities, ensuring that summer vacation carries all the joys, adventure and delight it does for anyone else. But what makes Adam's Camp even more amazing is the therapy staff that provides intensive work with many of the campers to help them make huge leaps in progress. See, Karel's son Adam was born with Cerebral Palsy. Any parent would be sad, worried, possibly even devastated. I don't know if I can say how I would react. I don't even think those among us with children can conceive of the impact a birth disability would have.
Sure, you can conceive of the scenario. You can wonder and ponder what you'd do in that situation. You'd love them anyway. But would you have doubts? Would you regret your child? Would you hate yourself for that regret? Would you plod on, doing more than other parents... and then do more? Karel and Bob rose up, turning a moment where some people turn inside, becoming cold and angry, cursing the world for screwing them over, into an opportunity to do more. For Karel and Bob, it's a matter of dedication, and more so, a matter of love. It's also a matter of doing what's right. When we spoke with her about why she strives to better the community, she dropped two amazing quote bombs.
Bomb #1: "Serving community is important to me because I have been given more than I deserve in this life and believe that it is my responsibility to give back - especially as it relates to things that are a part of my experience."
Bomb #2: (Quoting Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.) "'Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.'"
Karel knows that neither Adam, nor any child, youth or adult with a developmental, physical, mental or other disability is broken. She's not trying to fix anyone. And really, after 26 years, "help" is too weak of a word anyway. Karel and the Horney Family aren't just helping. They're facilitating happiness, cultivating joy, harnessing potential and generating fantastic memories for kids and adults who as recently as thirty years ago might have been written off as lost causes. It is Service. Karel has given 26 years to improving lives through listening, understanding, providing, teaching, giving, and most importantly: loving. It's a warmth that radiates from her, and her family, like a second sun to brighten this world.
And the Horneys did all this with that last name, so what's your excuse?
*Adam, now 31, lives independently, a clear and real testament to the power of love.
Awards and Honors
- 2006 Arapahoe Sertoma Service to Mankind award
- 1996 Minoru Yasui Volunteer Achievement Award