Posted by Alex Jofriet on June 02, 2016
How many times have you heard that Camp Oasis – a camp just for kids with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis – is a special place and experience for kids with IBD? Probably more times than your fingers can count. Even still, deciding to go to camp isn’t always an easy choice to make.
I’ve heard many claim they didn’t try it initially because they didn’t want to go to “Camp Sick Kids”. However, I also know that Camp Oasis is important for kids with IBD because it allows for an evolution in their identity; for feeling connected, instead of alone and isolated. Don’t take my word for it though. We have two PAC Superheroes with amazing camp stories and I’m going to share them with you today!
Kelsey Riffle is a junior at Ohio State University studying materials engineering and has had many camp experiences. What really stands out about Kelsey’s story is the network of support she built at camp. Read Kelsey’s Camp Oasis Story:
It was the first time I had ever come into contact with other kids and adults with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Before camp, I felt completely alone and isolated. Despite there being a whole GI department at Nationwide Children’s, I felt like no one else in the Columbus area had IBD. Going to camp changed everything. I created a support network of people who I could talk to during a flare or ask questions about medication side effects. This new network consisted of counselors and other campers. It was a great way to relate with others about the everyday issues of growing up with IBD like limited food options at friends’ houses and always needing to know where the closest bathroom is. I also felt much more confident in managing my disease after going to camp. I felt like it was something to share rather than something to hide. I finally had the courage to tell my friends and even strangers about IBD and how it affects everyone. I met some of my closest friends at camp. For one week, kids are able to leave behind all of their fears about what others will think of them and have fun. Before attending camp, I had never been so open talking with new friends about bathroom horror stories or sharing poop jokes. There are so many activities for campers to do and by the end of the week, you return from the experience a new person ready to share with the world how IBD has affected you and what others can do to help.
Missy O’Doherty is a junior at the University of Denver studying Molecular Biology and she has also had her fair share of camp experiences. She credits camp with helping her come to terms with opening up about IBD. Read Missy’s Camp Oasis story.
I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis as a kid, so feeling included by my peers was very difficult for me. Three years after my diagnosis, I discovered a camp for kids just like me. I initially attended camp because I felt alone and I wanted to connect with kids like me. I wanted to meet people who I could relate to and understand.
The impact that CCFA’s Camp Oasis had on me was incredible. Camp showed me that I can open up about my disease and not be ashamed. The inclusiveness of the activities and the love and acceptance that staff spread throughout camp gave me confidence I would never have had otherwise. I have gained lifelong friends that truly value me for me and I no longer feel like an outcast for having ulcerative colitis.
I loved that camp offered me an avenue to open up about my illness. Overall, I feel like I gained a sense of self and unity and confidence that will last me a lifetime. I am now a determined and inspired person that doesn’t feel defined by my disease; a person that can accomplish incredible things.
Kelsey and Missy both had amazing, transformative experiences at Camp Oasis. You can learn more about Camp Oasis, and register to attend, on the CCFA website: http://www.ccfa.org/get-involved/camp-oasis/