Wow camp was honestly not everything I thought it would be but it was for good reason. A lot of the other counselors had been there before and many of them were former campers. There was very clearly a strong bond/clique between them on day one of training which was slightly intimidating, but at the same time I was happy for them that they had each other from a young age in a way that I didn’t have anyone. They were happy, comfortable, and excited.
There were 2 days of training for the counselors which ranged from slide shows, to role playing dealing with home sick campers, IBD training for the Copneconic counselors and general camp information. Over all I liked training, I got to know some of the other counselors and I enjoyed spending time with them. I feel like I left with a few new friends, (even a jpoucher, hi Sara!). I felt like there was a lot of down/free time during training which I wish was structured with more ways for us to get to know each other even if it was just a bon fire at night. I didn’t see my counselor friends much once the kids got there so in a sense it felt like what friendships I had created were then somewhat lost because we all became instant parents to 10+ kids.
Some background on the camp itself. Camp Oasis is for kids 7-17 with Crohns or Colitis. Its a FREE camp for all of these kids, so money is not a reason they cannot come. Its open to anyone with IBD an all of the Oasis counselors also have IBD. The camp is organize specifically to meet the needs of kids with IBD and who are often sick…a lot. There is a med center with a full time volunteer medical staff including nurses and Dr. Truding, a local rockstar pediactic G.I. The med staff was amazing, friendly warm, comforting and all around great with every kid I brought there. And let me tell you, I was there far more than I had anticipated. I had a lot of sick kids, and one in particular that was CONSTANTLY sick. Practically living in the med center,but she didn’t want to leave. You see, these kids can’t go to sleep away camp anywhere else with their diseases. Its too hard to take care of them, their special meds, special diets and all that jazz. Straight down to supplying them all kinds of medication multiple times a day, and not needing to take them to a pharmacy. Every kid/counselor is supplied with a pill box prior to camp in order to make sure all the meds get there and are distributed at the right times.
Med time before meals was somewhat of a zoo.
Boy/girl lines by last name, and about 150 kids in line waiting for their meds. Nuts….but also kind of amazing.
I had a cabin of 10, 10-11 year old girls. I was totally terrified of these children before I met them, as this age group can be
terrifying. But, after the first few hours they were awesome (mostly). There were a few that stood out more than others, but honestly, what a great group of kids. We didn’t have any bullying, no behavioral problems, 1 case of homesickness, and 1 accident but that was it. You are with this kids 24/7. All day, every day, and at times it was trying however most of the time, I liked being there. I miss hanging out with them. The weekend after camp it was so strange to not have them running up to me asking what our next activity was. Speaking of activities, we had some awesome ones. Zip line, Giant aqua slide, aqua jump, arts and crafts, horse back riding, a talent show and the list goes on. The camp is truly an amazing place and it was so nice to have real people in life to talk to and share stories with, without judgment. People you could laugh with about our accidents and IBD follies as opposed to hiding them.
So the kids. These are some old souls trapped in tiny sick, bodies. It was great to see most of them up and running and playing and being normal kids, but then when we’d talk to them, about our diseases and I heard them explain their meds or see their surgery scars, it reminded me how very similar their stories were to mine. Then it was devastating realizing they have all done this at their young ages. The school they have had to miss, how they have a hard time making/keeping friends. It made me sad for them, but most of these kids are so positive. Its just their life and its what they live with. The excitement in their voice when they heard someone else was on the same meds they were or shared a GI doctor was almost like if they walked into school with the same outfit on.
I’m not going to say that these kids changed my life or the way I think about my disease. I will say however, that this camp and these kids are definitely doing that for other people. I think this camp changes kids lives, and meeting other kids with IBD is so beneficial to them. I cannot imagine doing this as a child, so for them to find people they can relate and talk to and grow up with, is so awesome. I really hope to be there next year meeting new kids and catching up with old ones. I hope that I can create a positive impact for these kids, they can learn from me, like I did from them.
So heres my ploy. Donate money, do the Take Steps Walk, help keep this amazing place up and running.