Like any classic camp experience, the weekend kicked off with a gooey marshmallow roast and wrapped up with dancing, singing, and other entertaining activities performed at a talent show. In between, children and teens swam, played miniature golf and created arts and crafts projects. But unlike most other camps, the fun wasn’t limited to kids and counselors. At the Boston Children’s Hospital Transplant Camp, which ran from April 20 to 22, parents and families joined in the festivities, too.
The seeds for the event were planted the previous spring, when SoYun Kwan, LICSW, CCTSW, a clinical social worker in Boston Children’s Liver Transplant Program and Intestinal and Multivisceral Transplant Program contacted the staff at Camp Sunshine after finding that many families she worked with were looking for more opportunities to connect with each other. The Maine-based camp has provided retreats to children with life-threatening illnesses and their families since 1984. “My goal in creating this partnership with Camp Sunshine was to provide a venue where our Boston Children’s transplant patients and families would have a more intensive opportunity to meet and to build meaningful and lasting connections with one another based upon their unique medical experiences,” she says.
“We thought that partnering on a session specifically for these families would be a great way to create those opportunities in a fun and medically supported getaway,” explains Anne Fletcher Howley, LICSW, the camp’s family coordinator.
By all accounts, the event was a success for kids and parents alike, bringing together families with the shared experience of transplant and offering activities that promoted a sense of connection, hope and joy. “We heard from families that this was a very unique opportunity to connect with so many others in similar situations,” says Howley.
Here is just some of the positive feedback from just a handful of the 28 families who attended. View more photos from the weekend on Facebook.
“This was a much-needed opportunity to relax and re-energize a bit. The medical rollercoaster of the last few months has been exhausting and I think we all needed a break, so this weekend was replenishing.” — Theresa, mother of Joseph, age 15
“We loved this experience. Megan was so happy to interact with other kids ‘like her.’ My husband and I enjoyed talking with other parents in the parent talk groups.” — Mindy, mother of Megan, age 13
“The parent groups were awesome and a great way to connect in a relaxed setting. The kids’ activities were on point — varied, fun and balanced between active and relaxed. Our daughter didn’t want to leave.” — Sara and Eric, parents of Katie, age 6
“My son made friends with children that he had something in common with. He was able to have fun and do camp activities that he loves, and with children in his age group, that he wouldn’t typically be able to do. He couldn’t be happier.” — Rebecca, mother of Matthew, age 11
“It was light-hearted, team-oriented and informational. The staff and volunteers should be commended for their services and positivity. Camp Sunshine is the best!” — Kern, father of Malambo, age 3