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|Newsletters: Summer Camp for HPN Youth|
Summer Camp for HPN Youth
Testimonials from several teenagers (see below) inspired us to explore the summer camp opportunity for Oley children. One of these teens, Malisa Matheny, was fortunate to have attended two camps during the summer of 1996, Double “H” Hole in the Woods Camp located in upstate New York and Camp Mak-A-Dream located in Gold Creek, Montana, and feels strongly that this is an experience that should be enjoyed by all! Malisa would be happy to discuss her perspectives on both camps, and her mom, Ruth Matheny, would be happy to speak to other families about parental issues and “letting go.” Campers Wendy Bartczak, Heather Gorman and Rebekah Traynor would also be delighted to speak about Camp Mak-A-Dream and the thrill of “blending in” and feeling “independent” for a time. One warning to parents: these young women are extremely enthusiastic and this could lead to a healthy telephone charge!
Oley staff had the pleasure of visiting Double “H” Hole in the Woods Camp, founded by actor Paul Newman and Lake George businessman Charles R. Wood. It was originally designed to provide a camp experience to children afflicted with cancer. The camp now opens its doors to medically fragile children who do not qualify for another camp experience (with the exception of those diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis). Arrangements have been made to reserve a limited number of camp “slots” for “Oley kids” during Session III to be held July 9 to 18, 1997! Other sessions are also open, but we are hoping to maximize the experience by having several homePEN kids attend at the same time. The camp is free of charge; however, campers are responsible for providing for their own transportation. Ruth Matheny has volunteered to explore the possibility of community organizations providing travel scholarships to those in need.
There are many aspects to evaluating summer camps for medically challenged children to ensure that children are safe as they enjoy this special time. Andrea Anastas, Executive Director of the American Pseudo-obstruction and Hirshprung Disease Society (APHS) is designing “standards” that will help guide APHS parents through the process of determining whether a camp can safely accommodate their child. She has generously offered to share these standards with Oley families as well as information on financial assistance for travel expenses. Andrea can also speak about parental issues, having accompanied her daughter last year to Camp Mak-A-Dream.
Finally, for those parents concerned with just letting go, Joan Bishop of the Oley Foundation is offering to welcome children traveling to Double “H” Hole in the Woods Camp through Albany Airport, the Rensselaer Amtrak Train Station, the Albany Bus Station, etc., and will see that children are connected with camp transportation.
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“It’s hard for me to put into words just how wonderful Double “H” Hole in the Woods Ranch and Camp Mak-A-Dream are. These camps have given me so much. When I went to Double “H” last summer at the age of 17, it was the first time that I didn’t have to explain my illness to everyone around me. When I needed a wheelchair, the other kids would eagerly volunteer to push me around. When I didn’t feel well, the counselors would always comfort me and stay with me. This was a place I could go to where all of my medical needs were taken care of, where being on PEN was okay. However, that’s not what these camps are about. The main focus is on having fun with other kids who understand how important just having fun really is. During hospitalizations and procedures I always bring the necklace that I made at camp with me. It’s something to remind me of all the good times and great friends that I made at camp. Those memories still get me through almost anything. Camp is not about having an illness. It’s about laughter, friendships, acceptance and unconditional love. The bond that is created at these special places is unbelievable. Everyone is having such a good time that the only time tears are shed is when it’s time to say goodbye.” —Malisa Matheny
“Last summer I attended Camp Mak-A-Dream in Gold Creek, Montana, which was a fun filled week full of many activities. It was a week in which many of us could live the childhood we never had because of our medical treatments and hospital visits. Some of the activities included rafting down the Clark River, traveling to Glacier Park, attending a baseball game, completing a high ropes course and enjoying a barn dance. These activities were great, but it was the strong bond we all formed that made camp so special. We all became friends. Most of the people who attended the camp would agree that the best part of camp was that it was a place where everyone was appreciated for who they are. It was a place where we could talk about similar experiences with doctors, medical treatments and hospitals. The staff and fellow campers were very interested in finding out about each person’s medical condition so they could learn from it. The staff was friendly, a lot of fun to be with, and always willing to lend a helping hand. They were not overprotective; they gave us just the right amount of independence while still showing they cared and that they had control over the situation. Camp Mak-A-Dream is a magical place where dreams do come true.” —Wendy Bartczak
“I had the privilege of attending the young adult camp/conference at Camp Mak-A-Dream last summer. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I learned so much about myself, life, relating with others and how to have fun. The camp was a huge success. I would encourage everyone to participate this summer, either as campers or as volunteers; you will come away a changed person. I would like to thank Camp Mak-A-Dream for bringing back the spark I once had. Now I’m in control of my disease rather than letting it control me.” —Rebekah Traynor
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