Camp O Experience
A little girl with black hair sat in a big brown dialysis chair with blood cycling in and out … bright-eyed, laughing and flashing a contagious smile to everyone around her. Yesinia Martinez was almost out of treatment and ready to go play kickball. This uncommon scene was commonplace at Camp Okawehna – atypical children with kidney disease undergoing treatment, only to jump back into typical summer camp activities. There’s no time to be gloomy or downtrodden at Camp O. Everyone has too much fun...(read more).
Nearly 100 children converged on the Cedar Crest campgrounds in Lyles, Tennessee, to take part in Camp Okawehna, an annual summer camp for children with kidney disease. Campers arrived at the weeklong camp from Tennessee, Texas, Missouri and South Carolina, for a chance to experience fun, fellowship and a feeling of normalcy that can be scarce back home – a chance to just be a “regular” kid.
Dialysis Clinic, Inc. (DCI) operates the camp each year, which is run by an all-volunteer staff that includes counselors, kitchen staff, activity supervisors, nurses and nephrologists. Because of the camp’s nature, there is a medical team on call 24/7. The camp also includes a cabin set up as a hemodialysis unit and a lodge for campers who do peritoneal dialysis.
This year’s camp theme was cruise ship ports of call. Staff greeted campers by adorning them with Hawaiian leis while wearing sailor hats before issuing them their passports (nametags) and escorting them to a “cruise ship” photo setup. The rest of the first day was spent getting checked in and settled into cabins and relaxing.
Throughout the week, campers had the opportunity to participate in a plethora of activities during free time that included archery, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, a ropes course, sports and arts and crafts. More structured events included a “tacky tourist” luau dance, circus, carnival, science exhibit and bingo. The major events were the pinewood derby, talent show, color completion and prom.
Prior to the start of the talent show, camp staff presented a plaque to the Johnson family that honors Mrs. Nancy Johnson, affectionately known as Camper Nancy. She founded the camp with her husband, Dr. Keith Johnson, and sadly, she passed away this year after a battle with cancer. The arts and crafts center was renamed in her memory, and her plaque will hang in the place in which she spent so much time, teaching and loving the children.
The campers spent hours hand sanding and painting their derby cars before the big race. When the dust settled, the girls stood victorious for the fourth consecutive year. Lydia Tollison was the big winner, much to the boys’ chagrin.
Girls also took the top three spots in the talent show, with Sarah Adams in first place for her freestyle rap.
The color competition was an ongoing series of events that grouped campers from different cabins into teams (red, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple). Events included a canoe race, ropes obstacles, a “Minute to Win it” style game, egg toss, relay races, basketball, kickball, soccer and more. In a major upset, the purple team stormed from last place to win the cup on the final day of the competition.
The week culminated with a cruise-themed prom. Campers found dates, got all gussied up and came together to dance under the lights on the last night of camp. Camp seniors Michael Turner and Caitlin Pendzinski were named prom king and queen. The prom is a special event because, due to medical issues, treatment restraints and school situations (such as homeschooling), this may be the only prom some campers are able to attend.
The next morning, campers and staff packed up and said goodbye before rejoining the ranks of everyday life. For this one week, everyone was the same. No one stared at catheters, fistulas or grafts. Everyone understood why some campers couldn’t swim and why some kids have to skip activities for hours of treatment at a time. At Camp O, everyone gets it. They’ve all been there. For this one week, they can just be “regular” kids.
The 2010 Camp O Experience
Camp O was held during one hot and humid week from Saturday, June 5th through Friday, June 11th. The grounds of Camp Cedar Crest in Lyles, Tennessee were transformed into a summer Olympics celebration for the eager campers. Arriving from St. Louis, Memphis, Houston, Arizona, Charleston, and Nashville, the 70 campers in attendance were greeted by camp counselors and volunteers. Everyone was eager to kick off the week's events. Some of the camper's daily activities included swimming, working a challenging ropes course, Frisbee golf, archery, soccer, and attempting to master the climbing wall. The schedule also included special nightly activities such as: Olympic torch lighting and opening round games and ceremonies, a camp bonfire, a derby car race, a circus show and teaching workshop, a carnival, a luau, a talent show, and prom.
At prom, the Camp King and Queen were announced. They are:
The Camp King: Coty Evans
Camp Queen: Danielle Waller
The ongoing battle between to boys and girls to see who will win the Pinewood Derby was won by the boys again this year.
The Pinewood Derby winner: Arturo Zamora
The annual Camp Hall of Fame award is used to celebrate special people who go above and beyond to invest their time and talent into Camp O, making it possible for children with kidney disease to attend camp.
The second annual Camp Hall of Fame award recipients are: Hal Whetstone and Tom Brown
There are many people who contributed to making Camp Okawehna 2010 a success. Thank you for making the lives of children with kidney disease a little happier.
Thank you to our vendors for your generous financial and product support:
ALSCO (Mike Rigli)
Baptist Hospital Credit Union
Hickman County Fire Department (Bill Henley)
Home Depot (Terry Parker)
Larry Finley, Magicians
Lebanon Kubota (Ryan Ezell)
Mayfield Ice Cream (Mike Potts)
Metro Medical Supply (Robbie Durham)
Music City Anna
Nashville Party Authority
NKF of Middle TN (Teresa Davidson)
Patrick and Ellen Donlon
Smart Circle International
Tennessee Kidney Foundation (Samantha Rodgers)
Texas Children's Hospital (Meredith Vela)
US National Guard (SGT Cade Hooper)
WR Newman General Contractors
Thank you to our volunteers for your generous donation of time and talent:
1633 Church Street, Suite 500 Nashville, TN 37203 615.327.3061
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