Our Members - Their Stories

MDANZ members share their personal stories of living with a Muscular Dystrophy condition. 

A new circle of friends and a boost in confidence

25 March 2021

From taking on a leadership role, to spending more time with her mobility dog, Camille Peterson is taking full advantage of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. By Melanie Louden. 

The opportunity to combine her hobbies with stepping out of her comfort zone has given teenager Camille Peterson a new circle of friends and a boost of confidence. 

Camille is among the MDANZ members taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award – a programme that gives 14 to 24-year-olds the chance to challenge themselves, learn new skills and meet new people.

Participants carry out tasks in three categories – service; physical recreation; and skills, and go on an Adventurous Journey to complete bronze, silver and gold levels.

Members taking part design their own programme, set goals and record progress towards their achievement – all with the help of MDANZ Award Leader Marty Price.

At the bronze level, participants average at least one hour per week on each section, plus a further three months in one of the service, skills or physical recreation sections.

Camille, who has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, began the programme mid-2019 and has completed the first three parts of the bronze award.

The 17-year-old Aucklander picked up volunteering in the Sexuality And Gender Acceptance group at her school for the service category.

Camille volunteers as a member of the Sexuality And Gender Acceptance group at her school.

This saw her volunteer as the Year 12 leader last year, and this year she is the Year 13 leader. Among other things, she helps organise events, fundraising and meetings.

Camille says putting herself forward for the leadership role last year was a “big push” out of her comfort zone, but “it was definitely worth it”. 

“It helped that they were all insanely friendly people. But I had to get used to talking to a group of people. Once I got over that initial feeling of ‘these people are going to think I’m weird’ it was okay.

“I’ve made lots of friends through that group, and I’m helping the community.”

 Camille’s physical recreation activity was swimming, which she was only doing occasionally before starting the Hillary Award.

But having a home pool with a hoist and needing to keep up her hours in the pool meant she had to commit to regular swimming.

“It was a good chance to track my progress. I got to know my limits and got into a routine.”

Camille’s skill category was training her mobility dog Lewis, a four-year-old golden retriever.

Lewis, pictured, has been part of the Peterson family for two years and goes to school with Camille.

“If I drop anything he picks it up. He can open doors. We’re pretty close to school – it’s a 20-minute walk to get there – he can press the button for the pedestrian crossing with his nose or paw.”

Camille says when Lewis wears his mobility dog jacket he knows he is in work mode.

The Hillary Award has been a confidence booster for Camille, and she recommends it to other MDANZ members.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to take elements of your hobbies and elevate them and to see what it’s like to be doing things consistently.” 

* MDANZ is a licensed Hillary Award provider, and through Award Leader Marty Price, MDANZ can provide funding and direct support for members aged between 14 and 24 years who want to take on the challenge to achieve either bronze, silver or gold level awards. 

* This story was originally published in the Autumn 2021 edition of In Touch magazine.