Aug 06, 2011
Former Moore Lion softball player and OSU shortstop Chelsea Garcia is known for her ability to focus and remain on an even keel. Her teammates see it daily. Her coach recognizes and appreciates the stability it brings to the team.
“Sometimes people ask me if I’m having fun playing softball. My dad always taught us not to get too excited or too down, just to remain even,” said Chelsea.
That focus has served her well as she has pursued academic and athletic success, enabling her to excel in both areas. She helped lead the Cowboys to a surprise appearance in this year’s Women’s College World Series and was also named to the Capital One Academic All-America Softball team in May.
But this summer, Chelsea took a step of faith that led her outside her comfort zone. Way outside her comfort zone. It was an adventure that actually began back in January.
Chelsea says, “I’m not spontaneous at all. I just felt like God was challenging to do something and give back.”
The OSU junior was trying to decide what to do with her very short off-season—maybe study abroad, maybe get a job. That’s when a friend texted her about a meeting for Kids Across America (KAA), a camp for urban children run by Kanakuk Kamps in Missouri. The meeting was at night and, coincidentally she didn’t have any softball activities to attend, so she went to the meeting and did something she never does.
“I signed up on the spot. I never do things like that—on a whim.” Chelsea said.
Six months later she found herself driving through the Missouri mountains to the camp. Chelsea had no idea what to expect because she had never been to any kind of summer camp.
“When I got there, I couldn’t believe the place. It wasn’t like anything I imagined.” she said.
Chelsea was also overwhelmed by the close sense of community and acceptance. She found herself in Cabin Number 8, nicknamed “The Ocho,” a very appropriate moniker.
“It’s my uniform number and that was really weird. That gave me a really good feeling,” Chelsea said.
Then came the challenges. Chelsea admits to being something of a perfectionist. The kids who come to KAA each week are inner-city kids who bring all sorts of struggles and emotional baggage with them. And the first week was particularly hard. Other counselors told her it was the toughest group of kids they’d ever seen at camp.
“It was overwhelming at first,” Chelsea said. “For the first five days I was a counselor in training. I was crying when I called my dad the first time. I couldn’t even talk. I missed my family and I wasn’t sure I was going to do well.”
But with the help of her co-counselor, Cat, Chelsea says she started to get the hang of it. In spite of the heat and the discipline issues, Chelsea began to make connections with the kids in her cabin.
“A lot of girls would confess to being molested or raped,” Chelsea said, “Girls that are 13 years old having pregnancy scares. But that’s what they grow up around.”
She also discovered that anger and fighting are simply the ways these kids learn to defend themselves.
“It’s just their basic defense mechanism. But it’s funny—after a while they’ll get really quiet and open up. They become vulnerable and allow you to help them,” Chelsea said.
As the weeks went by, she found herself being stretched physically and spiritually. She had originally planned on getting up early to work out so she’d be ready for softball conditioning. That plan quickly went out the window.
Chelsea says, “I started getting up early and instead of going to work out, I’d get into the Word and pray for strength for the day. We didn’t get a lot of sleep, so I needed that to get through the super-long days.”
It’s not that Chelsea isn’t familiar with the most difficult of life’s challenges. She was just 10 years old when her mother died of cervical cancer. Losing a parent can be devastating, but Chelsea says her mom’s faith helped her get through the difficult time.
“She would continue to tell us that ‘This is God’s plan for my life. I know it sucks, but God has done what he wants to do with me, and my time on this earth is done,’” Chelsea said.
It’s a faith that Chelsea rested on at camp and continues to rest on every day.
Chelsea says, “One of the things I’ve learned is that God says to me, ‘You don’t have a plan for your life. I have a plan for your life and you’re gonna have to lean on me and trust me.’”