Registration for CCFA's Camp Oasis is open! Have you registered your child yet?? If not, what are you waiting for?? Trust me when I tell you that you don't want to miss camp.
For those who don't know, Camp Oasis is a signature program of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. With 12 camps across the US, they make it possible for kids with IBD to leave their IBD worries at home and just enjoy a care-free week at summer camp.
When I first heard about Camp Oasis, I am ashamed to admit that I thought it sounded very sad. I thought, no way am I sending my kid off to a camp for sick kids. Turns out, I could not have been more wrong. There is NOTHING sad about Camp Oasis...except maybe that it is only a week long. In fact, Camp Oasis ended up being the best thing to come out of my daughter's diagnosis. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about camp.
For a child with IBD, the experience of being surrounded by other kids with IBD is a game changer. It normalizes the disease. It helps kids know they are not alone. It teaches them that they can go out and do anything they want and their disease does not define them.
IBD can be very isolating to people who have it. The topic of guts and bowel function is not one that people regularly choose to discuss in polite conversation. It can be hard to explain how bad you feel when you don't look sick. It is hard to be the kid who has a different diet or who misses a lot of school or can't participate in gym class because her tummy always hurts. Being surrounded by 100+ other kids who "get it" evens the playing field. Everyone understands because they're ALL going through the same thing. It is so positive and so supportive on so many levels. But don't just take my word for it...check out this video and hear what staff and campers have to say...
So, now you know that your kid should most definitely go, but you may be wondering what goes on at camp. Fair question. The answer: camp stuff. It's that simple. They do the same stuff kids do at camps anywhere else. They hike, swim, goof-off, do crafts, sing songs and build bonfires. The difference is, they are supported by a staff of GI doctors and nurses who are there to administer meds and handle any health problems that may come up. Oh, and sometimes rock stars stop by...yup, that's Pearl Jam's Mike McCready at camp in 2013.
I can honestly say, I could not have felt more secure in leaving my child anywhere than I did the day we dropped her off at Camp Oasis. We were greeted by the doctors and nurses who treat her at Seattle Children's, as well as, people we've met through the CCFA and even some other parents and kids whom we'd gotten to know prior to camp. It was the most reassuring thing in the world to know that if something happened, she'd have her very own doctors there to help her. Doctors she already knew and who understood her IBD. You can not beat the medical staff at Camp Oasis. They are the very best there is. And they VOLUNTEER their time to be there.
Another thing I really liked about our Camp Oasis experience was that fact that the camp kept in touch with us throughout the week. We got an e-mail at the end of the first day letting us know that everyone was all settled in and having fun. We also got two phone calls later in the week just to check in and share news about how things were going. And if that weren't enough, the camp posted photos to a private website, so we could see with our own eyes what was going on at camp. This put my mind at ease the most. I loved being able to see what my little one was up to without her knowing I was keeping tabs. ;)
For people who are unsure about how their little ones will do away from home for the first time, rest assured, they are prepared to handle any homesickness that comes up, although the kids are kept so busy that they hardly have time to think about it. As one of the youngest campers, I worried that my daughter might get lost in the shuffle (or the woods!), but the counselors were with her every step of the way and became some of her favorite people at camp.
Meals were the trickiest part of our experience, and I will go into much more detail about that in another post, but for now, just know that we were able to maintain SCD for the week by sending food to supplement the core camp menu. This involved a lot of planning, but it was manageable and there were 14 other kids at camp who were also on SCD! Talk about normalizing! Even though my daughter had to eat something different, for once, she wasn't the only one.
So what did my daughter think of the whole experience? She wished it lasted longer. She came home with a newly forged independence and a much improved comfort level with her IBD. She sang camp songs for weeks and can't wait to go back this year. My daughter was an awesome kid before she went, but she came home an even better, stronger version of herself and I will always be grateful that she had the chance to participate in Camp Oasis.
If you're still not sold, let me tell you one more thing. Camp is surprisingly affordable! A large portion of the cost is subsidized, but if it's still out of reach, there are options for financial support. It is worth it to make every effort to get your kid to camp if at all possible. There is nothing else like it. :)
Now go get registered!! Find a Camp Oasis near you.
Feel free to ask questions or share your own thoughts about camp. I know every camp is a little different so it would be great to swap stories and compare notes. All of the photos in this post are from the WA camp, so if you are in the Pacific Northwest, this is what your child has to look forward to. (When do the parents get to go???) Thanks for stopping by and hoping to see you at camp! XOXO, Cindi