Stories from Camp Joy

Anyone who has ever been to summer camp knows it is a place to make memories. It is a rite of passage we don’t want kids to miss because of a medical condition.

Each summer, Cincinnati Children’s hosts overnight camps for kids with various medical conditions at Camp Joy, an outdoor education center in Clarksville, Ohio, where songs around a camp fire, nature hikes and arts and crafts are all a part of promoting lasting friendships.

The camp welcomes groups ranging from Boys & Girls Clubs to kids from Cincinnati Children’s who have conditions such as heart disease, tuberous sclerosis, obesity, muscular dystrophy or cancer and blood diseases. For a week, they’re allowed to do what all kids do at camp: swim, climb, raft, fish, go horseback riding and spend the night in a cabin.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of camp is the opportunity for children to connect with others who are facing similar challenges.

These are some of their stories from the Hem/Onc Kids Camp for kids with Cancer and Blood Diseases.

Future ‘Cowboy Hematologist’

Cameron Noe is a dreamer. The hemophilia patient at Cincinnati Children’s says he’s a country boy who can imagine himself having a ranch someday. But he also plans on curing blood diseases. His biggest dream is that every disease will someday have a cure. This is his story.

You’ve Got a Friend

Since he was a little kid, Zion Coleman has been in and out of Cincinnati Children’s  because of sickle cell disease. A decade after being born with the condition, Zion has learned how to live with it. He also never forgets how to have fun. One of his favorite times of the year is seeing other kids with cancer or blood diseases at summer camp at Camp Joy, where he gets together with friends who know exactly what he’s going through.

I’ve Been In Your Shoes

The first time Callie Talbot came to summer camp for patients with cancer and blood diseases, she was 8 years old, scared and still going through chemo. But some of her favorite camp memories are of being treated as a “normal” camper, even though she had rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of connective tissues. She has kept coming back to Camp Joy every year, now as a junior counselor, to let other kids know that she’s been through some of the same things they’re going through. Here, she talks with camp nurse Linda Polman about what’s so great about summer camp.

Tanya Leach

About the Author: Tanya Leach

Tanya Bricking Leach is a writer and video producer at Cincinnati Children's and a former newspaper reporter who has covered crime for The Cincinnati Enquirer, sports for USA Today, island life for The Honolulu Advertiser, food for The Associated Press and stories about storms and surfers for the New York Times. Tanya is the author of the military-themed travel guide "Hawaii for Heroes." She is married to a military veteran and is the mother of two young boys. When she's not wired in at work, she enjoys unplugging with her family on their sailboat.

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