Let’s talk about camp!

Back in March, I mentioned I was working at one of my hospital’s week long camps for patients with special healthcare needs. Now that I have some more free time having finished with school, I’m ready to let you all in on the magic I witnessed during my week at camp.

Our camp┬áis a (free) week-long spring break camp for children that need a little extra help breathing from the use of a ventilator and their families. This includes children with tracheostomies – needing a ventilator, C-PAP, Bi-PAP, or oxygen to help them breathe. The campers come from all over the world to spend their spring break doing fun activities such as going to the beach, going to the pool, going on a yacht┬áaround ┬áBiscayne bay, and having a dance party at the hard rock cafe!

This may sound nice to anyone, but this camp has a profound positive impact on the lives of its campers. Due to their medical condition(s), many of these campers are not able to do the activities they do at camp when they’re home. Our camp is fully staffed with volunteer nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, high school volunteers, nursing school volunteers, and a child life specialist (guess who!). It is thanks to so many medical professionals volunteering┬áthat these campers have the opportunity to bathe in the ocean or in a pool. For many of the campers, our camp is the only time of the year when they are submerged under water.

Our camp also gives the campers, their siblings, and their parents an opportunity to realize that other children go through similar medical experiences – just like them! With this tone of equality and normalization set within the first day of camp, it allows the campers and their families to relax, let their guard down, and just have fun!

Needless to say, I was blown away by the immensely positive impact this camp has on the lives of its campers, their families, and the dozens of volunteers that spend their spring break vacation dedicated to this organization.

To all child life students:┬áthis is a perfect example of how to stand out in the child life world.┬áNot only would it look impressive on a resume, it will also help you with your personal professional development and medical knowledge. I’m not going to lie, I know that for my hospital’s camp there is a big commitment for those┬ávolunteering (in the end totaling 90+ hours). But,┬áin my opinion, it’s worth it! There are camps like the one my hospital hosts┬áall over the country and for various medical specialty┬ápopulations. Had I known about this camp earlier on in my adventure in child life, I would have totally volunteered!

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Camp Erin

Over the weekend I volunteered at Camp Erin, a bereavement camp for children and teens that have experienced the loss of a loved one. Because I am a CCLS, I was a “clinical point person” at the camp – someone that the children in my group could turn to if they were feeling overwhelmed or wanted to discuss some deeper emotions that they were feeling. My group consisted of nine 6-8 year old girls (yes, VERY young)! We did art therapy, music therapy, and even pet therapy! All with the goals of identifying emotions and learning about our feelings as well as doing nice things for our loved one. One important thing that I noticed this camp provided was the opportunity for these children to realize that other kids go through this too & that they are not alone in their grief. It was so heartwarming to see the girls comfort eachother and really connect with the activities that we were doing. 

Camp Erin was an amazing experience and I definitely encourage all of you Child Life-ers out there to volunteer! If not as a clinical point person, then as a Cabin Big Buddy! It’s great experience (& will look so impressive on any application/resume)! 

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