Shanoa does not always fit in at school. There are no other children with Sickle Cell Anemia at her school and her classmates do not always understand when she cannot go outside for recess. When Shanoa first attended Camp Joy, both she and her parents were hesitant. Now, five years later Shanoa looks forward to attending camp every summer! Shanoa expressed her love of camp in saying, “Camp Joy is a great environment to have kids with medical conditions. Kids feel like they fit in here. It’s a place to have fun and forget about your condition.” Because of Camp Joy, Shanoa is friends with other children with Sickle Cell Anemia, an opportunity she never had before attending Camp Joy. It provided Shanoa a chance to belong, creating a community where children with similar medical conditions where they are provided with endless opportunities.
Going to camp, wearing tank tops, changing clothes in front of other kids, and swimming have always meant answering lots of questions about, “What happened to you,” or, “How did you get those scars?” I have complex heart defects and have had one closed and three open heart surgeries. These surgeries left permanent scars all over my body that everyone always seems to notice. The biggest difference between Camp Joy and any other camp is that no one ever noticed the scars on my chest, side and back. Various scars, oxygen tanks, breathing treatments and lots of medicines handed out all day and evening were as common as the meals, swimming, canoeing, archery and other camp activities. Camp allowed me to talk with kids who had been through similar surgeries and had the same scars.
Camp Joy counselor Judy and 9-year-old camper Maggie developed a special friendship through Camp Korelitz, a camp for youth with Type 1 diabetes: “I finally discovered that I was truly never alone. I came back to Korelitz as a counselor because I want every child with diabetes to have the same amazing opportunities I had.” The concept of family naturally passes from counselor to camper, as Maggie echoed a similar sentiment: “I love being in a place where I feel at home and not like an outcast.” Judy can remember having a similar experience when she was Maggie’s age; both ultimately came to the realization that they were not alone. Judy remembers that her “9-year-old self realized that [she] could have a camp experience just like other kids —just with a few blood sugar checks thrown in.”
Fourteen year old camper Anna Amend’s favorite activity is archery. However, as an amputee, she never dreamed she would one day shoot a bow and arrow. As a participant in the Amputee Coalition of America’s youth program at Camp Joy, Anna had a chance to challenge her conceptions of what she could and could not do. With the help of a counselor, she picked up the bow and arrow and nearly shot a bulls eye. Throughout her week at camp, Anna’s self-confidence, and her determination to defy the odds inspired campers and counselors alike: “Camp Joy has been a key for me. A key to learn, listen, and understand. I am proud to call it my camp and is a place I can truly call home.”
“Everybody has a story, something that sets them apart—and you have to learn to accept it. Despite our differences, we were all the same. We were happy, full of laughs, and all agree that it was a week to remember.”