At the time of Jajuan’s diagnosis of sickle cell disease, doctors believed that he would not be able to participate in athletic activities. “I used to be insecure and I didn’t want to tell anyone about my condition,” said Jajuan. Through the Hematology and Oncology week sponsored by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Jajuan has met other campers and counselors with similar medical conditions that have taught him how to responsibly manage his sickle cell disease and maintain an active lifestyle: “Everyone here has some type of condition but they are so engaged. They want to support you, they want to see you succeed.”
“Camp taught me that if I set my mind to it, I can accomplish anything that I want and that makes me feel amazing.”
After the tragic loss of her mother, Maggie was encouraged to attend a program for grieving youth at Camp Joy by one of her teachers. Maggie gained the ability to reflect and take in every experience at camp. This helped her overcome sadness and isolation over the years: “When I attended the grieving camp, I got to meet other kids my age with similar experiences which made me happy because I realized that I wasn’t alone.” Activities like creative arts and “sharing circles” helped Maggie gain more confidence and push herself to step out of her comfort zone. The “challenge by choice” philosophy at Camp Joy allowed Maggie to come out of her shell and meet new friends along the way.
The moment I stepped off of the bus on my first day of camp, I immediately felt so welcomed and accepted that all of my anxiousness and nervousness disappeared. I was so happy and excited I could hardly sit still! As the week went by I made so many new friends and learned so many new things from other amputees who were just like me. I never felt like the odd one out and everyone wanted me to join in their games and activities. On the last night of camp I cried like a baby because I never wanted to leave. I had no idea one week at Camp Joy would have such a huge impact on my life.
I was ten years old when everything in my life changed; dim lights blinded me, pain beat my body like a drum, and my muscles felt like fire. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I had to spend a week in the hospital, learning how to deal with my new life. The disease stole my innocence and made me grow up so much faster than any child should have to. Luckily, I learned about a camp for kids with Type 1 diabetes. Camp Joy gave me back my childhood; I could just be a kid, without judgment and with kids all around me that understood and knew the challenges in life for someone with diabetes. I never would have reached a point in my life where I embraced my differences as a part of myself; without this disease and without the magic of camp I would not be the person I am today.