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Incoming freshman Hayden Huybers headed to campus after special summer at Camp Riley

Aug. 24, 2016

Hayden Huybers, an incoming freshman and volleyball player from Fishers, Ind., represents the fifth generation in her family to attend IU.

"I've lived in Indiana my whole life," Huybers said. "I've grown up loving IU."

hayden huybers

Hayden Huybers | Photo By INDIANA UNIVERSITY

To say she was excited to find out she was going to play volleyball at IU this year is an understatement.

She'd been talking with other schools, but everything changed when she knew she could come to IU. Huybers is still in awe of the opportunity.

When IU came into the picture, I had to go," she said. "It's just crazy. I knew I was going to play in college, but to continue on generations of going to IU is crazy and still getting to play volleyball."

Her connection to IU due to her family's enrollment going back to her great, great grandmother isn't Huybers only special tie to the university.

For six summers, Huybers' brother, Jack, has been attending Camp Riley, an overnight camp at IU's Bradford Woods where student-athletes spend time with kids with disabilities.

This summer, Hayden and 17-year-old Jack Huybers got to enjoy camp together for the first time when Hayden participated as a student-athlete and Jack returned as a camper.

Jack, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, had the opportunity at Camp Riley to play volleyball against his sister for the first time ever.

hayden and jack huybers

For Hayden Huybers, going to Camp Riley as a student-athlete and spending time with her brother, Jack Huybers, was a chance to find out why he loves the experience each summer. | PHOTO COURTESY OF HAYDEN HUYBERS

"They asked me, 'Do you want to be on your sister's team or be against your sister?' I said, 'Be against,'" Jack said.

Jack had a great time playing volleyball with his sister on the other side of the net.

"I'm sure that's never happened before, where they've had a camper with a sister who has come that's also an athlete at IU," Jack said.

Volleyball players aren't the only athletes he's interacted with at camp. Jack, a big basketball fan, has fond memories of meeting IU basketball player James Blackmon Jr.

"For them to take the time to come and do this makes me feel good, knowing that they took time out of their workouts to come and be at camp with the campers," Jack said. "When the athletes come, it makes you feel like a part of campus. Even though Bradford Woods is not part of the campus, you still feel a little bit like it's part of IU."

For Hayden going to Camp Riley as a student-athlete and spending time with her brother was a chance to find out why Jack loves the experience each summer.

"He's nervous before he goes but also excited," she said. "The day right before, he's just excited, and the nerves have gone away. When he comes home he talks about it for a long time afterward."

Among the experiences he shares with his sister: trying out scuba gear in the water, riding in boats, going off-road in a jeep and horse-back riding.

But the best part of camp isn't the student-athletes or the fun activities.

"Throughout the two weeks, the bond that you make with everybody and everyone at camp gets stronger and stronger," Jack said. "By the end, you're sad to leave."

When the summer camp is over, Jack stays connected with his friends via Facebook.

"It's really amazing. The friends he makes at this camp all have similar things that are happening in their lives, and they make so many connections," Hayden said. "Outside of camp, it's hard for him to go to other friends' houses in our city because his wheelchair can't get to other people's houses. For him to leave our house and meet new friends, it's just great," she said.

Jack is still waiting for it to sink in that his sister is headed off to college.

"It hasn't really hit yet," he said. "I'm sure when I start school it'll be weird. When I get back into the routine of things, she's not going to be there."

Even though Hayden will be away studying at IU, she'll have the lessons her brother has taught her to help as she makes her way through freshman year. 

"I understand a lot more what others are going through and the hardships people have," she said. "It's different, but it's been a great thing."

Camp Riley aligns with priorities outlined in the university’s Bicentennial Strategic Plan, including a commitment to student success and building a prosperous and innovative Indiana.

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