Heading to camp

I first learned about the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America’s Camp Oasis when I was stuck in the hospital for 16 days with my final flare-up of ulcerative colitis. I had been researching treatment and surgery options on my laptop from my hospital bed, and somehow stumbled upon a link to a website for the camp. As I was looking through the photos of the children at camp, I was immediately inspired. Knowing how hard dealing with UC was in my 30s, I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must be to have the disease as a child. All the things I took for granted as a youngster, like attending school functions, taking part in school activities like plays or sports, or going to summer camp would all be very challenging. The mission of Camp Oasis is to enrich the lives of children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis by providing a safe and supportive camp community. As I read about Camp Oasis, I was so deeply moved that I promised myself I would look into volunteering there after I recovered.

In February, I started to research the dates for the camp that takes place in my home state of Colorado. I was happy to discover that I had no work conflicts during one of the sessions and could request time off to be away for a week. I sent in an application, was interviewed, and found out a couple of weeks ago that I was accepted as a volunteer for the camp session for 7- to 13-year-olds in July. Today I went in for some vaccinations that are recommended for all camp staff and volunteers, and I am working on completing my paperwork.

Growing up, I loved being outdoors and my family did a lot of camping. I also took part in some summer camps with Girl Scouts and other organizations where we did nature study, sports, and arts and crafts. These early experiences had a major influence on me and laid the foundations for my love of nature, outdoor adventure, and art. Yet I often wonder: Had I developed IBD at a much younger age, would I have been able to be involved in these things? Thanks to Camp Oasis, many children with IBD do have the chance to take part in such fun, life-enriching experiences. I am eager to help children at camp discover all the amazing things they can accomplish. I can’t wait for July!

Me at camp when I was 11 years old. I am the one in the striped shirt on the far right.

12 thoughts on “Heading to camp

  1. thank you so much for mentioning this, as a teacher, I have a lot of experience with working with children, so this would be a great way to help out children who are going through/went through the same thing that I did.

    1. I am sure you would have much to contribute, and I hope you have a chance to volunteer in the future too. I think it is so important for kids with IBD to have adult role models who have persevered through Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

  2. No way I would have recognized you from that pic! You will be such an inspiration to the kids. Knowing you will leave such a positive mark on them, that you will stand out as a real life example of hope and courage just warms my heart. They need you, and I know you know that. I know you were nervous about the interview, but that’s only because the kids are so important to you. You are going to do great and I can’t wait for the report (and maybe a video;-).

  3. My son will have a total colon removal surgery at the beginning of April. He, his twin sister and I applied and were accepted as volunteers in the Camp Gut Busters – summer camp for children with IBD in California.
    My son was diagnosed with IBD when he was 12 years old, and he perfectly understand what these kids are going through. He was twice at the camp – as an assistant counselor and as a counselor. This year he will be there with ostomy bag.
    Thank you, Heidi, for doing what you do and sharing your stories with us. You make a real difference in people’s lives.
    By the way, you looked great on the picture of your camp, and you look wonderful now.

    1. Anna,
      Thank you for your comment. It means a lot. What an amazing experience you are all going to have volunteering together. Your son will continue to be an incredible role model for the children. Knowing he is helping out at camp so soon after going through such a challenging time himself is absolutely inspiring. He sounds like a very strong and courageous young man. Best wishes for a smooth surgery and recovery for him.

  4. I think your presence at the Camp will be a huge asset to the kids Heidi. And I’m sure it will provide you with a lot of satisfaction as well. Great to hear you are doing this.

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