If you have been following my Monday Morning Coffee (MMC) since inception, you know by now that I have volunteered every year, for the past 15 years, as a Counselor for Camp Oasis, a camp with kids that are dealing with IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) which is a term for two conditions, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. I volunteer because I have been living with Crohn’s Disease since I was 18 years old and it allows me to help kids see they can live with the disease and live a full life with some adjustments and few sacrifices. Kids that go to camp are ages 6 – 18.
This year, due to the pandemic, we held camp virtually. Yes, really! I will admit, I was skeptical at first, but last year we had to cancel, so this was as good as it was going to get! And let me tell you, it was unbelievable what the folks that put this together were able to do! I was in charge of the Trailblazers, kids 14-16 years old, both boys and girls, with another Counselor that was male. Everyone was on zoom from their home base, as was I. My role was a Cabin Counselor, which encompasses spending two hours a day with 10 kids and keeping them entertained, while they have a safe place to share stories, families, fears, accomplishments, jokes and really anything else they want. It was somewhat structured that we had cabin rules, virtual games, sharing of what took place for each during their virtual day at camp, and one dedicated day to talk about their disease.
This is the day that you would guess can get pretty emotional for the kids, and just so you know, it gets emotional for the counselors too. The kids I worked with this year are high schoolers, and some are visiting colleges. So a-lot of the questions at this age fall under social skills. How do you explain to people about your disease; will they laugh at me; I get sick a-lot and it keeps me from going out at times, will I loose friends over it; is it ok to just not tell anyone what I have; what if I get sick and miss school; can I date – are just a few of their concerns, so you can imagine the stress these kids are going through, on top of dealing with their disease. And by the way, stress is the number one reason for outbreaks. It’s heart breaking really, because it’s a disease you don’t see, but boy do you feel it if you suffer with it. The honesty and bravery these kids show is truly amazing to me.
But the really good news is these are easy questions we can answer, and give each individual advise and suggestions that you can immediately see in their faces are a relief to them. Since I was diagnosed, the research, knowledge, resources, medicines and procedures that have been discovered and identified are a blessing to anyone who suffers with this disease. When you start to share with the kids what they CAN DO instead of what they CAN’T DO, the tears of fear and embarrassment turn into tears of relief and joy.
The week is for the kids, but secretly it’s one of the best weeks of my life every year. I share this because there is so much need out there for folks like you and me to share what we know with our future leaders. Find something that you are passionate about and make a difference in someone’s life. You won’t regret it and I would bet you get more out of it than you give!!!
Make it a great day!