Bringing the Joys of Camp to Pediatric Patients

Bringing the Joys of Camp to Pediatric Patients

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Patients at Texas Children’s Hospital were given a unique opportunity this week to enjoy their very own summer camp. In partnership with Camp For All, a nonprofit camping and retreat organization that hosts camp activities for people with challenging illnesses and special needs, the hospital was able to transform its hallways and rooms into a wholesome summer camp experience.

“The kids come to camp and learn what they can do,” said Pat Sorrells, president and chief executive of Camp For All. “They come to camp to realize they’re kids still. They realize, ‘You know what? I can still play baseball. I can still throw a dodgeball in the cabin. I can still make friends. I’m not weird. I am normal and whole.’ That’s a part of their emotional healing.”

Camp For All 2U organizers adapted outdoor camp activities, including archery, canoeing, putt-putt golf and campfire storytelling, to provide patients with a break from their hospital routines, return to them a sense of normalcy and instill renewed hope and joy. While hospitals treat the physical component of a patient’s health and wellbeing, the camp’s objective is to help with the emotional part of the healing process.

“Summer camp is a staple in the lives of so many kids,” Texas Children’s child life specialist Sarah Coltman said. “Camp allows us to grow and make friends, [but] kids who are here don’t necessarily get that experience. We wanted to bring Camp for All 2U here so that they are able to have the same experience, play, be normal kids even though they are in the hospital.”

Coltman added that, while the camp is an excellent experience to help uplift patients’ attitudes, energy and self-esteem levels, it is meant to help the families as well.

“It makes me happy. It gives me something to do while I’m stuck up here,” said Brian Ernestwest, 14, whose twin brother has been a neurosurgery patient for the past two months. “It’s nice to not see the pink, purple and white in the unit for a while.”

While this weeklong event marked Camp For All 2U’s first year at Texas Children’s, the organization has previously hosted camps at other Texas locations, including The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Austin.

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