By Katie Whittle
I believe we all could use a bit more positivity in our life, a break from the daily grind and a chance to let lose. One week a summer, I pull out my grungy clothes and put away my somewhat serious self for an unforgettable week of summer camp. I just returned from Oregon’s bleeding disorders camp and have a refreshed sense of why I work in this community.
A week at camp for these children with bleeding disorders is priceless. Camp is about building self-confidence and leadership skills. Every time a camper infuses him or herself for the first time, an excited announcement is broadcast through camp’s radios. These campers receive a Big Stick Award—a celebration of their achievement and their big step toward independence. Camp provides an environment where kids can try new things beyond their comfort zone, without the threat of failing.
I watched my campers grow during the short time at camp. At the beginning of the week, the campers arrive timid and unsure of what lies ahead, but by week’s end they all come out of their shells and can be seen swinging tree to tree on the camp’s elaborate high ropes course.
On the last night of camp the oldest girl campers had a special get-together at the campfire to reflect on their week. It was at that gathering I realized what makes camp so special. One 15 year old said it perfectly; “I had the opportunity to try things here at camp that would not be possible in the ‘real’ world.” With the support of a strong medical staff, the children’s bleeding disorders do not define them and their limits, but rather, it helps them fit in.
Describing camp in a few paragraphs is close to impossible; I hope every child with a bleeding disorder has the opportunity to attend a summer camp with other kids who manage the same obstacles. I am grateful I had the chance to witness the growth and joy experienced by all at camp. Here’s to 51 more weeks until we can do it all over again!