|Vol. 24, No. 16||September 1, 2002|
Summer Camp Bolsters Confidence of Special-Needs Kids
By LISA MERKL
Memorial Hermann Healthcare System
How do you ride a bike or go down a slide if you live in a wheelchair? How can you take a trip if every other day you have to go to the dialysis center for treatment?
Chronically ill and special-needs children treated at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital are often left out of normal childhood activities. Many chronic illnesses and conditions - such as hemophilia, kidney disease, epilepsy, pulmonary asthma and disfigurement from burns - can restrict the activities of these affected. The hospital’s “Send a Kid to Camp” program has given these youngsters new strength and resolve as they go back to school this fall.
Most of these children live under strict medical supervision, and their lives revolve around doctor’s appointments, hospital stays and uncomfortable medical treatments. These children also face difficult social and emotional issues. Parents, family members and teachers may overprotect them, to the point where they feel isolated from others and overly dependent on their families. “Send a Kid to Camp” allows hundreds of chronically ill and special-needs children each year to experience the fun and freedom of summer camp in one of six camps tailored to their individual medical needs.
Many of the six camps supported by the “Send a Kid to Camp” program are hosted by Camp for All, a camping and retreat facility designed to accommodate the special needs of children with disabilities and chronic illnesses. A nonprofit organization, Camp for All is located 85 miles northwest of Houston on 206 scenic acres near Burton, Texas. With its fully accessible and barrier-free environment, Camp for All welcomes more than 7,000 people each year from 75 different organizations. A skilled staff works in partnership with attending groups to provide medical supervision. Activities and equipment are tailored to meet the varying ages, interests and physical and mental capabilities of individual campers. Programs provide fun and enjoyment while promoting independence, self-esteem and a sense of normalcy and belonging.
“Each of the camps allows children not only the opportunity to challenge themselves with new experiences, but just to have fun,” said Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital Child Life Specialist Sharon Doescher.
This year, Doescher served as Camp Janus director, which is also affiliated with the Shriners Burn Institute in Galveston and the Houston Fire Department.
In her sixth year working with burn patients, Doescher said, “Camp Janus allows children who have been burned to attend a summer camp were they will not be looked at differently because of their scars. They come to make new friends and visit old ones.”
©2006 Texas Medical Center