Accident survivor uses testimony as camp counselor-in-training.

By Sydney Fong –

It’s been a memorable summer for 16-year-old Sydney Smith, who recently completed her role as counselor-in-training during Camp Del Oro’s camp in Nevada City, Calif.

“I was able to connect somewhat on a personal level with each group that has come this summer,” she said.

That bond with the campers was built on a truly unique testimony.

“I shared with them that I was in a bicycle accident that changed my life,” she said. “They couldn’t imagine going through what I went through.”

Five years ago, while riding her bicycle downhill on a street in Sonora, Calif., Smith clipped a vehicle, a collision that sent her down a cliff and into some barbed wires. She was not wearing a helmet, and Smith was subsequently airlifted to a Sacramento hospital in critical condition.   

“Doctors told my family I wouldn’t make it,” she said.

It took multiple surgeries and a five-month coma, but Smith pulled through.

“I’m really grateful that it happened, because if it didn’t, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today,” she said.

The recovery has not been easy. Smith has had to adjust to some permanent physical damages, including blindness in one eye and paralysis on one side of her face.   

“I’m much stronger person, and I can appreciate life more,” she said. “I know my faith has gotten stronger, and I know who God is, and I’m just really grateful for that.”

Entering this summer, Smith knew she wanted to be active and to get away for a bit. She also wanted to share her story. Her father, a former Salvation Army camp counselor, suggested she apply for the counselor-in-training position at Camp Del Oro.

Despite some initial hesitancy, she applied.

“I’ve learned that you can never take no for an answer, though a certain task may seem hard, you just need to keep trying,” she said.

Smith’s presence was a positive one, not only with the campers but also with the camp staff.   

“I’m glad she’s here,” said Major James Sullivan, Del Oro Divisional Youth Secretary. “It’s really awesome to see what God is doing in Sydney’s life because she’s making a difference in kids’ lives. She’s an inspiration to everyone here.”

Smith plans to come back to camp for the next few years, with the hope of being a full-fledged camp counselor.

“I’ve enjoyed camp,” she said. “I mean, I don’t want to leave, but I’ll be back. I just love the kids.”   

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