East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine is hosting a summer camp for children with chronic illnesses and those who lost siblings.
More than 70 campers with cancer, hemophilia and sickle cell disease are attending Camp Hope and Camp Rainbow this week at Camp Don Lee in Arapahoe. In addition to activities like sailing, swimming and crafts, Director of Rainbow Services for the Brody School of Medicine Jacque Sauls said campers will learn more about their illnesses.
"Some will be more formal where we'll talk about nutrition and things to stay healthy, some might be a little less formal where we talk about the emotions of having a chronic illness...what does that mean for you when you're five or six, and how is that different when you're 18 or 19 and you're ready to go off to college."
The most meaningful experience of the summer camp, Sauls says, is that the children are able to meet other campers who have similar experiences coping with a chronic illness.
“At the beginning of week, they come in maybe knowing one other patient sometimes never having met someone else that has cancer or sickle cell disease. At the end of the camp week, they are friends for life.”
Making new friends that understand the struggle of dealing with a chronic illness is what 17-year-old Yasmine looks forward to each year at Camp Hope. Yasmine, who has sickle cell disease, has attended the summer camp for the past four years.
"I think it's pretty neat because we both share the same conflict and I never knew about how other people was feeling. Like, the SS (sickle cell anemia), I never knew about that until one of my campers told me that they had SS and they have worse pain than SC (sickle cell disease)."
The campers receive 24-hour medical care from physicians and nurses throughout the week. The summer camps are offered free each year to children ages 6-18 years old with chronic illnesses. Camp Rainbow started in the early 1980s as a daily camp at a local park in Greenville. Camp Hope was developed in 1991 for children with sickle cell disease.