I first started as a volunteer physician for the Minnesota/Dakotas chapter of Camp Oasis shortly after finishing fellowship almost 20 years ago. I have since been the co-medical director in Minnesota, and now serve the North Texas/Oklahoma chapter. I have also served on the Camp Oasis advisory board for the past 6 years.

For me, Camp Oasis provides a safe and fun environment for children and young adults with IBD to share their feelings and experiences related to having a chronic medical condition, practice more self-management and get tips on advocating for themselves, learn more about IBD in a low-key setting, and meet lifelong friends and mentors.

Over my years at Camp Oasis, I have watched young campers transition to being able to swallow medications or self-inject, develop such strong friendships they ask their parents/families to drive across state lines for meet-ups, and support each other if someone is hospitalized.

The beautiful thing about Camp Oasis is it is still a 'regular' camp with outdoor activities, arts & crafts, cabins creating skits, and dancing. The medical team also participates in activities including creating our own skits and challenging campers in basketball, gaga ball, rock climbing, or water fights. First-time campers may be a bit quiet when they arrive, but I hear they are usually very talkative on the way home! 

As a physician, it is a pleasure to see what my patients' full personality looks like away from the 'sterile' clinic or hospital setting and away from their parents.

Camp medical providers (whether they be physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, counselors/psychologists, child life, or dieticians) come from different institutions. We all have a team-based and problem-solving outlook to giving the best and safest experiences possible to all campers.

There are times children need to leave -- it could be because they feel overwhelmed with being away from their parents (home) for the first time, or difficulty working through stress or medical issues. In my time as a volunteer, I have helped to escort three children to hospitals for medical and/or mental health concerns -- so families should know their children are in good hands. For campers who need to leave early, they are always welcome to return another year. 

Just like ImproveCareNow likes to measure results and continuously improve, Camp Oasis sends out surveys to families and volunteers annually and, with the help of the Advisory Council, adjusts policies and procedures as needed. Last year, camp survey results were published -- important highlights include:

  • Almost 2/3 of new campers had never met another young person with IBD.
  • Nearly every camper reported making at least one new friend and most stayed in touch after camp.
  • When asked, 92% of campers can remember the names of their current IBD medications and what they are used for compared to 83% before camp.

🔎 Read the 2023 post-camp evaluation results

Camp Oasis always welcomes volunteers -- whether they are cabin counselors, want to help with activities, or are on the medical team. To find more information and apply, please visit: crohnscolitisfoundation.org/get-involved/camp-oasis/volunteer-support

I hope to see you at Camp!

👀 Get #InTheLOOP with Camp Oasis experiences on the ICN blog >>

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