Balancing a New Career with an Old Passion

Balancing a New Career with an Old Passion:
Grace Dill blends life as account representative and MDA counselor

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) has a friend in Grace Dill. Grace, an account representative for the Baltimore region for ClarkDietrich, has volunteered as an MDA camp counselor for eight years. Thanks to ClarkDietrich’s commitment to employees living a balanced life, this year – her first with the company – was no different.

In May 2016 Grace graduated from the University of Dayton with a bachelors in chemical engineering and was thrilled to land her first job right out of the gate. Her only caveat: she would need to take a full week off almost as soon as she started.

While Grace knew it was a big ask to request five vacation days at the onset of her job, it was a risk she had to take. The MDA has been a part of her family’s legacy for as long as she can remember. Her mom volunteered at MDA Summer Camp beginning at age 15 and went on to work for the organization for over 12 years. Then Grace’s older sister began volunteering as a teenager, and ultimately Grace followed suit. 

“MDA is a big family thing for me and is something I hold up highly. It’s part of my balanced life. I needed to go,” she said.

Fortunately her boss agreed wholeheartedly and was happy to let her take a week to volunteer. In fact, living a balanced life is integral to the culture at ClarkDietrich. The company understands that people work to live, not live to work, and as such does what it can to enable employees to balance their lives around work, family and community. So as it were Grace worked for two weeks and then took off for her annual trek to camp.

She explains that the goal of the MDA Summer Camp is to provide kids with muscular dystrophy and related muscle-debilitating diseases the best week of the year. The camp gives these kids the opportunity to enjoy regular summer activities like football, basketball, fishing, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding and more. They build lifelong friendships, self-confidence and independence. 

Grace says the camp is a wonderful experience for everyone involved, including counselors who are each assigned one camper to look after. “You are their buddy for a week. Often you have to be their arms and legs. You help them get in and out of bed, get dressed, brush their teeth, help them with the bathroom, get them showered after swimming, help them in and out of the pool. You are their hands 24/7 for the week,” she explained.

Despite their diagnoses, Grace says the campers really are just like every other kid she has ever met. The only difference is they have wheels for legs. There’s no doubt these campers have given her a new perspective on life.  “The biggest thing I’ve learned from MDA Summer Camp is as much as I’m there to help my campers, they are there to help me. I’m there to be their arms and legs. They in turn show me that life is not as serious as many people take it. Life can be fun and exciting,” she said.

Though Grace’s work as an MDA Summer Camp counselor occurs once a year, her commitment to MDA stretches throughout her life. She is always on board to participate in her community’s annual Muscle Walk and of course stays in touch with her campers.  “I know that everyday I wake up my camper is part of my life even though he is not with me everyday,” she said.

MDA is leading the fight to free individuals – and the families who love them – from the harm of muscular dystrophy, ALS and related muscle-debilitating diseases that take away physical strength, independence and life. Learn more at www.mda.org.