Camp Discovery is the best week
Eleanor Tung-Hahn, a medical student and volunteer, loved experiencing Camp Discovery for the first time.
The day before Camp Discovery began, we were handed a green folder. Inside was “everything” about our campers. Pages of text read like hospital notes detailing medicines, bandaging protocols, anaphylactic allergies, co-morbidities, and likes and dislikes.
Even as a second-year medical student, just thinking about the what-ifs caused me some degree of alarm. But that soon changed.
Our camp director cheerily announced that our jobs were to ensure our campers would have one of the best weeks of their entire year. We were the facilitators of helping these kids just be kids.
The campers arrived and chaos abounded with peals of laughter, lots of suitcases, and readiness to enjoy their first camp meal together. As our fearless coordinator made the announcement, a hush fell over the crowd (a verbal cue for all of us to zip it and pay attention), and Camp Discovery officially began.
All of their medical details were suddenly inconsequential. The kids were here to live their best lives and show us (the staff) how to do the same. We were transported into living in the present moment by tasks that ranged from creatively nudging our campers to eat, hydrate and apply sunscreen while making sure everyone could also experience the thrill of a lake tube ride, horseback riding, catching a fish, making s'mores, and even mastering friendship bracelet creation.
One of the quieter moments is what really made Camp Discovery most inspiring for me. While we were preparing one of our camper’s nighttime regimens, a fellow counselor (a prior camper herself) opened up and shared her story. She truly represented hope and possibilities: with her technology hacks, adaptive tools, tips and utensils for daily life activities, going to college, having a job, and leading an untethered adult life.
By just being herself, she was an instant role model for our campers. She was a real-life sign that people can thrive despite unfavorable odds, and medical prognoses aren’t always definitive. She lived with a chronic congenital skin condition and embodied resilience. Each of our campers reflected this same inner light of perseverance in their own way.
For me, Camp Discovery was about connection, self-discovery, and seeing the optimism and joy that is encapsulated in each day. I am grateful to our campers. I can only hope that every medical student, resident, and physician might be lucky enough to have the “best week” like my campers and I had. Camp Discovery opens the door for each child with skin disease to access this same magic.
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