Making All Kids Happy Campers
Camps for kids provides patients with chronic illnesses camp experience
Attending camp is a rite of passage for many children. Camps for kids ensures that Cook Children’s patients with chronic illnesses have an opportunity to experience the magic of camp.
Camps for Kids includes specialized camps that give kids the opportunities to catch a fish, ride a horse for the first time, shoot a bull’s-eye at archery, challenge themselves on a ropes course or fly down a zip line.
They can also learn about their diagnoses and make friends that are just like them. Camp counselors work to provide a safe and therapeutic environment that allows these children and youth to share the experience of going to camp.
For campers this is an opportunity to spend time with others who don’t have to be told how something feels or what it is like – they know.
“These kids understand each other. They’ve been there. They all have someone here with the same concerns whether it’s baldness or scars or easily fatigued or just looking different from surgery or disease,” said Jill Koss, director of Family Services at Cook Children’s. “No words have to be spoken because you automatically understand why someone has no hair or a port in their chest or they look different. There’s no explanation that needs to be given.”
Cook Children’s medical staff is also a big part of Camps for Kids. Along with the staff’s emotional support, patients are treated by physicians, nurses and clinical staff from Cook Children’s.
Joel Steelman, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cook Children's, has been involved in medical summer camps since he worked at a camp for cerebral palsy patients as a resident. He's done diabetes camps almost every year since the late 1990s.
Dr. Steelman said these camps are an opportunity for education and learning more about what's necessary for daily care and health. Many of the adults and counselors at the camps have the same medical condition as the campers.
"I think it's important for campers to see these role modes," Dr. Steelman said. "I think the medically based summer camps are great. They offer the opportunity for kids with various chronic medical needs to participate in fun activities with a group of adults, who understand and manage their medical needs. It adds a routineness to the summer camp experience. All the children who attend have very similar medical needs as opposed to attending an average camp where that wouldn’t be the case. There would be the potential issue of adults and other campers misunderstanding the additional care and monitoring needed for that particular camper."
Thanks to the generosity of our community, all camps are offered at no costs to patients and their families. Your gift to Camps for Kids will allow our patients the opportunity to experience a life-changing camp experience.
This year's North Texas Giving Day designee is Camp for Kids. Camps for Kids is a donor funded program ensuring that all campers’ fees are provided. Each camp is targeted to provide memorable experiences to campers with a similar diagnosis. Join us by providing these deserving children an experience that will impact them for the rest of their lives.