Eggs, slime, and the virtual camp experience
Medical student Katie O'Connell, MS helped bring the fun of Camp Discovery to children at home
The first pandemic summer, I had the incredible opportunity to organize and host seven gap week activities for AAD’s virtual Camp Discovery attendees across the country. I recruited a team of 17 fellow medical student volunteers from schools nationwide to assist with each of the sessions. Although this year brought incredible disappointment for the children of Camp Discovery as they were unable to attend camp in person, many new opportunities also emerged. For the first time, Camp Discovery participants from the Minnesota, Texas, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania camps were able to meet and engage with one another via an online platform. We played virtual Family Feud, introduced each other to our pets, made ice cream together, shared stories of our pandemic experiences, and laughed endlessly together. Attendees even shared their gaming usernames amongst themselves to connect outside of camp. It was incredible to see everyone of different ages and skin conditions build instant connections with one another, ultimately expanding their network of support.
Because of COVID-19, my medical school pediatrics rotation was shifted to online. I was heartbroken as I had waited all year to work with kids in person, but virtual Camp Discovery provided me everything I was missing, and more. Some of the campers I met had attended Camp Discovery for the past eight years and shared how grateful they were to the AAD for quickly adapting and hosting camp online. They shared how important camp has been for them as they have grown over the years and how it has helped them in learning to navigate living with various chronic skin conditions.
I also had the opportunity to plan virtual Camp Discovery Texas. Each day we hosted an activity before splitting into “cabin time,” where campers could bond and catch up with one another after not seeing each other for a year. When we played Two Truths and a Lie, it was clear that everyone was very close and could easily catch the lie, saying things like “I know you play the trumpet not the trombone!” One day, we all made slime together, and some of the younger ones said it was the first time a slime recipe they made actually worked. On the final day of Camp, as is tradition at Camp Discovery, winners of the various games and activities throughout the week could choose Counselor Consequences. I was chosen not once, but twice, to egg myself in the face!
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