Camp Okawehna

Check back later for updates on this years camp experience, along with information on Camp Okawehna 2018!!

 

For many children with renal disease, attending a summer camp was not an option. The emotional, physical, and financial burden of dialysis treatments extinguished their hopes for a childhood “camp” experience. However, that was until the idea of Camp Okawehna was born in the minds of two hemodialysis kids who wanted to go to camp.
 
In 1974, Camp Okawehna was established. Located just 50 miles outside of Nashville Tennessee, Camp Okawehna is a week long summer experience for children with kidney disease. Children who have had a kidney transplant as well as those children on hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis are welcomed at camp. While sponsored by DCI, all children between the ages of 6 to 18 years of age are eligible to attend regardless of where their treatment is received. Camp “O”, as it is affectionately called, is the only kidney camp located in the state of Tennessee and one of the largest kidney camps in the country.
 
Camp “O” has steadily grown over the last quarter century. The first Camp was held in 1975 at Camp Harmony. Attending that first year of camp were 15 campers and 10 staff including Dr. Bob MacDonald, a pediatric Nephrologist and the Camp’s first Medical Director. In 1978 Camp “O” was relocated to Camp Cedar Crest in Lyles Tennessee and has been there ever since. Today over 110 campers and 80 volunteer staff converge on camp every year. In the beginning years hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis were not available on site as they are today. The first days of peritoneal dialysis had the kids performing exchanges in a motor home. Those who needed hemodialysis were being transported to an outpatient clinic in Nashville. Thankfully in 1991 “STIX”, a full service hemodialysis unit, started providing thrice weekly on-site treatments.
 
During the week at Camp Okawehna everything is provided, from accommodations, food, non-stop fun-filled activities and on-site medical facilities. Every effort is made to accommodate individuals with special needs, including those who are hearing or visually impaired, those with rigid dietary requirements, or individuals in wheelchairs. Cedar Crest Camp is wheelchair accessible and transportation is provided by the shuttle bus.
Camp activities throughout the week include a ropes challenge course, canoeing, swimming, daily crafts projects, “themed” dances (including a prom), concerts on the lawn, a pine-wood derby car race, a hay ride, a luau, and the traditional Camp Okawehna Talent Show. Special events that have taken place in previous years include an on-site carnival as well as other corporate sponsored activities. Campers are expected to participate in activities as much as physically possible. Camp activities are geared to be fun but totally wholesome and to promote independence and growth on the part of the individual camper. This helps the camper develop a trusting relationship in a new environment, explore their full potential, and learn more about themselves.
 
All of the counselors and staff at Camp Okawehna are volunteers. While some of these kind individuals are physicians, nurses, dialysis technicians, social workers and child life specialists, others are simply at camp to give of their time, energy, and creativity. In the past, there have been pharmacists, business persons, pilots, and even firefighters that volunteer to be counselors at Camp “O”. All counselors are required to submit an application and personal statement for wanting to attend camp.
 
Because of the nature of this camp, there are numerous medical staff members on site 24 hours a day the entire camp session. Dr. Keith Johnson provides the medical direction for Camp Okawehna. Dr. Philip Berry, a practicing pediatric nephrologist, is responsible for the management of the hemodialysis facility during the week of camp. Dr. Berry is assisted by several other pediatric nephrologists from both the Nashville medical community and outside cities. Staff from respective city groups accompanies their campers to camp to supplement those volunteers from the Nashville medical community. Every camper who requires hemodialysis is required to bring with them a knowledgeable “home unit” staff person who knows the intricacies of the child’s dialysis treatments and care.
 
The philosophy of DCI is to be of service to and to exist for the benefit of the ESRD patient. DCI promotes the overall well being of its patients and their families by supporting them in developing lives that are as normal as possible under the circumstances. DCI’s sponsorship of Camp Okawehna is an integral part of the plan to serve the pediatric renal patient.
 

1. How long does Camp O last?

Camp Okawehna lasts for six nights, starting on Saturday at noon with registration and concluding the following Friday morning after breakfast. 

 

2. What is included in the tuition price?

Tuition is $65 per camper. Tuition includes registration, 3 meals a day, housing, 24-hour supervision, Camp T-shirt, completed arts and crafts projects and a week full of fun.

 

3. Is my child considered a “Senior” or “Graduate” this year?

  • Senior graduating campers:
    • Hemodialysis Camper: 18 years old
    • PD Camper: 18 years old
    • Transplant: 16 years old
      *a senior at camp does not necessarily correlate with being a senior in high school. 

A “Senior” or graduating camper is a camper that has met the age limit for Camp O and will not be returning the next year. Because of their age, Seniors are granted special privileges. As a “Senior” camper, your child may have the opportunity to participate in a senior trip at a local restaurant, and zipline. (*Permission form required.) “Senior” campers will also receive a graduation certificate and a collection of photos from the current camp year during their graduation ceremony at the end of camp.

If you have a graduating senior, please include a current photo and baby photo with your camp application. 

 

4. Where will my child sleep?

Your child will be housed on our campus in a cabin setting, which includes bunk beds. Males and females are housed separately. Each cabin holds 6-9 people. Two counselors are in each cabin; one of the counselors is a trained health professional. Peritoneal dialysis patients and anyone who requires special needs are housed in one of the two lodges. All events are staffed during the day and night. At night, additional security is provided by counselor patrols. One counselor is required to stay with their campers during the nightly counselors meetings.

 

5. Can I visit my child at Camp?

We invite parents to bring their child to camp as well as pick them up if they live in the Nashville area. Otherwise, parents are not allowed at camp during the week of camp.


6. Who is responsible for my child while at Camp?

Most camp counselors are trained medical professionals. We require a counselor application from each counselor as well as list of references to accompany the counselor application. For more information on how camp staff are selected, check out the Camp Staff page.


7. What are the important Phone Numbers at Camp I need to know?

Here are some phone numbers for reference while your child is at camp.

  • Main Camp Office: (931) 670-3025
  • Line at the Hemodialysis Unit: (931) 670-5838

 

8. Can campers bring cellphones and other electronic devices?

All electronic devices, including cell phones, are strictly prohibited during camp. Electronic devices will be collected at check-in and stowed away in a safe place by camp officials. If you need to contact a camper, please use the camp contact information listed above.


9. What if I need to cancel my reservation?

In the event you must cancel your reservation, you will receive a refund as defined below:

  • Cancellations should be submitted in sufficient time.
  • Children who can not attend camp will be given a credit for the following year.

In the event your child can not attend camp, please let us know as soon as possible. We have some children on the waiting list to attend camp and would fill these spots with cancellations.


10. How do I get to Camp?

From the Nashville area:

  1. Travel on I-40 West towards Memphis.
  2. Take exit 172 for Hwy 46 toward Centerville/Dickson.
  3. Turn left off the exit (going south towards Centerville away from Dickson).
  4. Continue on Hwy 46 for approximately 6.5 miles.
  5. At a traffic light, Hwy 46 becomes Hwy 7. Continue straight through the light following Hwy 7 for approximately 2 miles. (You will pass East Hickman High School on the right. Begin looking for a blue Camp Cedar Crest sign and a Camp O sign on the left.)
  6. Turn left at the Camp Cedar Crest and Camp O signs (onto Middle Lick Creek Road).
  7. Continue for approximately 1/2 mile and turn left onto Cedar Crest Camp Road.
  8. Once on Camp Cedar Crest Road, go straight until you come to a house and a fork in the road. Take the road on the extreme right. This will take you to the Mess Hall.

From the Memphis area:

  1. Travel on I-40 East towards Nashville.
  2. Take exit 172 for Hwy 46 toward Centerville/Dickson.
  3. Turn left off the exit (going south towards Centerville away from Dickson).
  4. Continue on Hwy 46 for approximately 6.5 miles.
  5. At a traffic light, Hwy 46 becomes Hwy 7. Continue straight through the light following Hwy 7 for approximately 2 miles. (You will pass East Hickman High School on the right. Begin looking for a blue Camp Cedar Crest sign and a Camp O sign on the left.)
  6. Turn left at the Camp Cedar Crest and Camp O signs (onto Middle Lick Creek Road).
  7. Continue for approximately 1/2 mile and turn left onto Cedar Crest Camp Road.
  8. Once on Camp Cedar Crest Road, go straight until you come to a house and a fork in the road. Take the road on the extreme right. This will take you to the Mess Hall.


11. My child will be flying to Camp unaccompanied. Who will pick him up?

All children must be accompanied by an adult while traveling.


12. How will my child get to Camp from the airport?

Larger city groups will charter a bus for transportation to and from camp. Otherwise, children will be picked up and transported to camp by camp staff.


13. How can I prepare for Camp?

Part of the camp experience is packing and taking a plane or bus to camp.

Some tips for handling homesickness

The key to dealing with homesickness is to prepare your youngster in advance. Ask a close friend or relative to register for the same camp session your child is attending. Discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves home and discuss any concerns. Do NOT tell children that you will rescue them if they do not like camp. Assure your child of your love. Send along a favorite stuffed animal. Do not go into great detail about what the camper will be missing at home.


14. Should campers bring money?

This is a personal matter. During the week it is not uncommon for camp to take a field trip to a local attraction. In this case, we think spending money is needed but not required. This is usually left up to the city group in which your child comes from. Children that come to camp without city group affiliation should have money for incidentals while at camp.


15. What is the weather like?

During this time of year, the weather can be sometimes unpredictable, we suggest that your bring comfortable clothing and at least one sweatshirt or jacket as it might get cold during the evening activity. Bathing suits are needed for children who choose to swim and canoe as well. Otherwise recreational clothing and a good pair of walking shoes are required. For more information on the weather, check out The Weather Channel web site.


16. Does my child need to bring bedding and towels?

Yes, towels and bedding are not provided. In case of an emergency, we have extra bedding and towels.


17. What do I pack?

CAMPERS PERSONAL LIST

(Don’t forget to label camper’s name on all items)

    • Sleeping Bag or 2 Twin size sheets – mandatory
    • Pillow – please bring your own
    • Blanket – mandatory
    • Pajamas
    • Tennis shoes and two pairs of comfortable shoes
    • Summer Play clothing – shorts or pants, t-shirts, and comfortable clothing
    • Long Pants and Long Shirts/Sweatshirts (sometimes it gets cold at night)
    • Rain poncho or an umbrella
    • Bathing suit
    • Sweater/Jacket – mandatory
    • Hat or sun visor – mandatory
    • Dress Up clothing for Dances
    • Beach/Shower Towels – mandatory
    • Wash Cloths
    • Soap
    • Deodorant
    • Shampoo
    • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
    • Comb/brush
    • Shower Shoes/Flip Flops
    • Flashlight and batteries
    • Sunglasses
    • Backpack
    • Alarm clock
    • Spare money for incidentals
    • Water Bottle
    • Suntan Lotion
    • LIST OF MEDICINE, DOSAGE, AND TIME TAKEN; ENOUGH MEDICINE FOR 7 DAYS LABELED WITH CAMPER’S NAME (PLEASE INCLUDE ALL MEDICINE EVEN IF NOT TAKEN EXCEPT WHEN NEEDED)

Optional Items Suggested for Counselors

  • Extension Cord
  • Box fan for cooling cabins
  • Camera and film
  • Sunglasses
  • Extra batteries
  • Backpack
  • Alarm clock
  • Spare money for incidentals
  • Water Bottle
  • Baseball/Softball glove


18. What kinds of meals are served?

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided in the common dining area from the afternoon of arrival through Friday morning breakfast. At each meal, we offer a variety of foods to appeal to different preferences. Snacks and water are also available at various sites within the camp ground every afternoon. Please donot send food to camp with your child. Meals are planned by a renal dietician to ensure that dietary requirements are met for all children. If your child requires a special diet, please contact the Camp Director.

SAMPLE MENU

Breakfast

  • Cold cereal
  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Biscuit and Sausage
  • Fruit
  • Milk and juice

Lunch

  • Meat Entree
  • Vegetarian Entree
  • Selection of vegetables
  • Sandwiches
  • Assorted cakes, puddings, and gelatin
  • Choice of juice, tea, or water

Dinner

  • Meat Entree
  • Vegetarian Entree
  • Selection of vegetables
  • Assorted ice cream
  • Choice of juice, water, or tea

*Several Dinners throughout the week are a special theme such as Luau Night or BBQ Night.

 

 

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:

Andy Parker

Camp Okawehna

1633 Church Street, Suite 500

Nashville, TN 37203

Phone: (615) 327-3061

Fax: (605) 341-8814

Email: CampO@dciinc.org
 

Contribute to Camp O!

 

Camp Okawehna staff consists entirely of volunteers who donate their time, energy, and creativity. One hundred dedicated volunteers participate in our camp each year. Many return again and again. They help with food service, arts and crafts, recreational leadership, one-on-one assistance, and help provide an overall fun atmosphere.

 

Our volunteers come from all walks of life. They range in age from 18 to 80 and include doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers, business executives, firefighters, pilots, and college students.

 

Financial Support

Camp Okawehna relies on voluntary donations and fundraising to provide our programs free of charge. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and all donations are tax deductible.

 

The cost for one child to attend camp is $65 (excluding travel expenses). While some children may be able to afford this, others may not. We welcome any donation that will help a child attend camp.

 

We would be appreciative of any solicitation to your local organizations on the Camp’s behalf for financial support. Kidney Foundations and medical groups are a great place to start.

 

Support the Facility

The camp’s physical needs are considerable. While Camp Okawehna has been at the Cedar Crest campground, we have constructed a welcome shelter, a permanent shelter used for dialysis, and have refurbished bath houses and the crafts shelter. We are in the process of assessing our ability to build a permanent outside stage and amphitheater for use all year long.

 

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:

Andy Parker

Camp Okawehna

1633 Church Street, Suite 500

Nashville, TN 37203

Phone: (615) 327-3061

Fax: (605) 341-8814

Email: CampO@dciinc.org
 

Counselors

All of our counselors and staff at Camp Okawehna are volunteers. While some of these kind individuals are physicians, nurses, dialysis technicians, social workers, and child life specialists, others are simply at camp to give of their time, energy, and creativity. In the past, we have had pharmacists, business persons, pilots, and even firefighters who volunteer to be a counselor at Camp “O.” All counselors are required to submit an application and a personal statement explaining why they want to be a counselor at Camp Okawehna.

 

Medical Staff

H. Keith Johnson, MD, provides the medical direction for Camp Okawehna. Dr. Johnson is the founder of the nation’s largest not-for-profit dialysis care provider — Dialysis Clinic, Inc. (DCI). He served as Medical Director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for over 25 years. He has since retired from his Vanderbilt position and devotes his time to the management of DCI.

 

Dr. Philip Berry, a practicing pediatric nephrologist, is responsible for the management of the hemodialysis facility during the week of camp. Dr. Berry is assisted by several other pediatric nephrologists from the Nashville medical community and from outside cities.

 

Because of the nature of this camp, there are numerous medical staff members on site 24 hours a day for the entire camp session. Staff from respective city groups accompanies their campers to camp to supplement those volunteers from the Nashville medical community. Every camper who requires hemodialysis is required to bring with them a knowledgeable “home unit” staff person who knows the intricacies of the child’s dialysis treatments and care.

 

During hemodialysis sessions (3 times during the week of camp), a physician is in the dialysis facility to monitor and oversee the dialysis treatments. In addition, each cabin at camp has assigned to it at least one medical professional who lives in that cabin during the week. If a medical emergency happens to arise, Columbia Horizon Medical Center is a short distance away for any emergency treatment. Vanderbilt University Medical Center is available for helicopter transports if needed.

 

Camp Okawehna has developed affiliations across the nation with many medical facilities and hospitals that refer children to our annual camp. The major affiliations are Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, Texas; Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, Alabama; Lebonheur Children’s Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee; Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina; University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky; and St. Luke’s Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri. Camp Okawehna is also supported by its founder, DCI, and by DCI’s dialysis clinics across the country. Children with chronic renal failure who are on dialysis or have received transplants are welcome to come to camp; however, they must be accompanied by a professional medical staff person their first year of camp. All hemodialysis campers must have an adult staff person accompany them to camp. Any medically related questions may be directed to the camp director who will put you in touch with the appropriate persons.

 

Please choose the form that best suits your situation. The forms can be filled out online, however, they must be printed and faxed in. The information will not be saved once you close the screen.

 

 

Applications are due April 14th 2018.

Fax the completed forms to:

Camp Okawehna Processing Department

Attn: Glenda Streicher

Fax Number: (615) 341-8814

 

 

 Camper Applications:

Camper Packet- Hemodialysis

Camper Packet – PD

Camper Packet- Transplant and CO (All other kids)

***As a “Senior” graduating camper, your child may have the opportunity to participate in a senior trip at a local restaurant, and zipline. Fill out the Permission form to participate. If you have a graduating senior, please include a current photo and baby photo with your camp application. 

 

 Counselor Applications:

New Counselor Form 2017

Returning Counselor Form 2017

Returning Counselor Form 2017 – DCI Employees Only

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp O: Where Kids with Kidney Disease Belong

Being a kid with kidney disease can be tough. Early on, children with kidney disease realize they’re not like everyone else. People stare at the bulging access in their arm or look uncomfortable when they see the exposed surgical scars across their chest. While other kids can eat and drink until they are content, children on dialysis struggle with thirst because they have to monitor every sip they take. Instead of making new friends at school, they’re sitting in a doctor’s office, hospital or a dialysis facility. They often fall behind in class. Many have lowered self-esteem and struggle to make friends. Having kidney disease can make a child feel like her or she is alone. No one understands what they are going through. That’s why we have Camp Okawehna.

 

Camp Okawehna is a place where kids with kidney disease belong.  This year, nearly 80 children with kidney disease from city groups around the U.S. arrived on June 3rd at the Cedar Crest Campground in Lyles, Tennessee, to enjoy a week of summer fun. The children ranged in ages from 6 – 18 years old. Some children were on hemodialysis, some needed peritoneal dialysis, and others had a kidney transplant. Yet, all of the children understood that they fit in at camp. No one was ‘different.’ Everyone had a friend to share in the adventures at camp.

 

 

campo-17-canoeingEvery day there were new adventures and activities to explore. The activities at camp are designed to allow children from across city groups to get to know each other. Everyone had something fun to do.

 

Saturday: Campers were assigned to cabins and color competition teams. A pool party complete with s’mores around the bonfire made the evening sweet.

 

Sunday: Campers received their derby cars to sand and paint in preparation for Tuesday night’s race. They enjoyed their first round of archery, ropes course, canoeing, fishing, and crafts. Then as day gave way to night, the live band began to play and the children danced, played limbo, and sang the night away. The music carried all the way down to the bingo game for those who wanted to rest their feet.

 

 

campo-17-carnivalMonday: Circus Mojo provided a delightful start to the morning with their circus demonstration and hands on training. Between the big wheel walking, silk acrobatics, hula hoop spinning and clown antics, the kids were mesmerized. For the rest of the morning the kids rotated between circus training, field games, and the Home Depot sponsored crafts. The evening highlight included on-site carnival, complete with bouncy houses, a dunk tank, fire spinning, glitter tattoos, face painting, popcorn, and cotton candy. When it was time to wind down, everyone gathered together for a movie under the tent.

 

Tuesday: The morning activities included archery, ropes course, canoeing, fishing, swimming, crafts and field games. The much anticipated evening event was the Pinewood Derby. The six year winning streak for the girls was interrupted by the boys’ victory last year. The girls proudly reclaimed the Pinewood Derby victory for 2017!

 

Wednesday: Campers who were 16 years and older enjoyed the zip line at Adventureworks. The younger campers participated in field games and crafts. Then, everyone met back at camp for the always entertaining talent show. A non-partial panel of judges scored the acts and awarded individual trophies.  Sarah Adams was awarded first place, Rachel White came in second and Jacqueline Shaw took third.

 

campo-17-promqueen

campo-17-promking

Thursday: The last full day of camp is always bittersweet. Campers enjoyed a wildlife demonstration. They engaged in the final contests that completed the color competition. In a very close battle for the win, the Red team managed to secure the Color Cup. Then campers enjoyed free time. The boys could be found at the basketball court or by the pool. Most of the girls were preparing for prom by making jewelry, engaging in hair and makeup sessions, and final prom dress fittings. A formal evening meal was served to campers by the medical intern counselors. The centerpiece of the night was a dazzling “Beauty and the Beast” themed prom. DJ E. Lee spun the hits and fulfilled many song requests. The evening ended with awarding of graduate certificates and the announcement of the prom king, Dylan Schott, and queen, Symone Charles.

 

Every year on the Friday morning of camp, kids gather together and say their goodbyes. There’s sorrow on the faces of many campers. They know they’ve just experienced a special place. It’s not the cabins, the pool, or the woods that make Camp Okawehna so special; it’s the people. The kids relate to one another. They are accepted. The adults reassure the children that they are loved. As they leave camp, they carry with them the joy of new friendships made and the renewed spirit of knowing there are other kids that understand what they are going through. Camp Okawhena is a place where kids with kidney disease belong. They are not alone.

Nearly 100 Children Attend DCI’s Kidney Camp

With on-site dialysis provided, children can explore a full week of exhilarating camp activities.

 

For 41 years, Camp Okawehna has served kids with kidney disease from all over the country. Campers came from cities around the US including Memphis, St. Louis, Houston, Austin, and Nashville. From June 4-10, nearly 100 campers attended Dialysis Clinic, Inc.’s (DCI), weeklong summer camp, located 50 miles outside of Nashville in Lyles, Tenn.

 

CampO_Photo1

Some campers from Texas stop and smile on their way to the pool!

Camp Okawehna, often fondly referred to as ‘Camp O’, is unique because hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis treatments are performed on-site. The 10-station hemodialysis unit in the woods runs three shifts. On the Friday before camp, state inspectors from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services certify the unit for usage, and by Sunday, kids are dialyzing in between activities like archery and kayaking. In addition, the peritoneal dialysis lodge has space for 21 campers to perform lifesaving dialysis while they sleep. 

 

Many children with kidney disease haven’t had the opportunity to participate in an overnight camp because they could not find a camp that offered medical support for their dialysis treatments. Camp O is a place where the medical needs of each camper are addressed and met by trained professionals.

 

“We want children with kidney disease to come to camp and have the time of their life without worrying about how their medical needs will be met,” said Jessica Emler, DCI Public Information Manager. “This is one week out of the year where these children can truly relax and just be kids.”

CampO_Photo2_Ajecia_Dialysis

Ajecia, a Camp O camper for seven years, receiving hemodialysis treatment. Onsite dialysis is provided by trained medical staff for children who need either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis treatment.

 

While campers get to participate in many events such as an on-site carnival, a circus show, an illusionist act, a derby car competition, a talent show, field games, arts and crafts, swimming, fishing and canoeing, many children say their favorite part of camp is simply meeting other kids just like them.

 

 “When you have kidney disease a lot of people don’t understand. People just don’t get it. When you come to Camp O, it’s refreshing because everyone gets it, everyone just understands,” said Ajecia, 18, a Camp O camper for seven years and a camp graduate this year. “You don’t have to be different; you can just be yourself and show off some of your scars. You can even help somebody else who’s had surgery or does not know how to cope with kidney disease.” 

 

CampO_Photo3_Tristen_HomeDepotCraft

Tristan smiles as he begins to work on his birdhouse during the Home Depot Arts & Crafts project!

Living with kidney disease is not easy. Most children who attend Camp O have had multiple surgeries, require a variety of medications, and maintain a very restricted diet. Often, they miss school because of dialysis and they are sometimes misunderstood by peers because of their differences. Camp O campers find comfort in bonding with other kids who have endured the same trials they have.

 

According to camp director, Andy Parker, “We have a valuable collection of volunteers who give their time and effort to make sure every aspect of camp is safe, fun and memorable. Our logistics team of volunteers ensures the 100 acres of camp grounds are well maintained and accommodating for each camper, and our kitchen volunteers, with the assistance of a renal dietitian, prepare a kidney friendly menu throughout the week. Each volunteer at camp has a specific role and we all know the focus is on creating a great experience for the kids.”   

 

We would like to give a special thanks to the volunteers, partners and sponsors that helped to make this year’s camp special: 

  • Asante Masters Salon at The Mill
  • Cedar Crest Camp Grounds
  • Circus Mojo
  • Home Depot
  • Nashville Adventure Science Center
  • Tennessee State Parks

Camp Okawehna 2015

Campers Discover Their Own Superpowers at Camp Okawehna

What do superheroes and kids with kidney disease have in common? A lot actually. In the world of comics, the evil villain and the powerful superhero struggle through a complex series of events, emotional highs and lows, and finally defy the odds with a superhero saving the day. Every day, Camp Okawehna kids face the evil villain, kidney disease. They endure a wide range of challenges associated with a chronic disease. They take a variety of medications that have unpleasant side effects. They endure multiple surgeries. They are often misunderstood by their peers because of their differences. Life is not easy for these kids. Yet, by tapping into their superpowers, courage, faith, hope, and endurance, our kids are able to beat the odds and defeat the villain that threatens to steal their joy.

 

In honor of our young warriors, this year’s camp theme, Superheroes, encouraged campers to identify their superpower. From June 6-12 our pint-sized humans took a stand and claimed the victory of laughter, joy and friendship in the face of the villain, kidney disease.

 

With kidney disease lurking in the recesses of camp, the nearly 100 campers ages 6 to 18 were vigilant in their treatments and attended on-site hemodialysis sessions on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday in the Stix unit, or received their peritoneal dialysis at the lodge while they slept. Transplanted kids kept up with their meds and checked in with their nurse. After the necessary steps were taken to thwart the effects of kidney disease, our campers set out in search of great adventures.

 

The excitement began after the Saturday afternoon arrival. After check-in, campers reacquainted with old friends, joined new color competition teams, and then ventured off to pool time and a relaxing bonfire.

 

On Sunday, campers engaged in the first battle of the color competitions, participated in a McKeel Martial Arts demonstration and finished the day with light-hearted dancing and the ever-challenging bingo tournament.

 

Monday found the campers delighting in the rare talents provided by Circus Mojo, building crafts with Home Depot, and trying their luck at the carnival games.

 

Tuesday brought the opportunity to explore field games, archery, crafts, and the ropes course along with the highly anticipated Pinewood Derby. We celebrated the new Camp Okawehna Hall of Fame inductees, Chris Lovell and Meredith Vela. Unfortunately, at the end of the derby, boys suffered a devastating blow to their pride as the girls, represented by Jalisha Pegues, claimed victory on the racetrack for the fourth year in a row.

 

On Wednesday, campers ages 15 and up were invited to race along the zip line course at Adventureworks. After soaring through the trees, campers returned to the big tent to examine some of nature’s most interesting birds with the Natural History Education Company of the Midsouth (NHECM). In the evening, the campers came together for a dazzling evening of talent show performances. The individual talent show winners were: Yemiah Hall, first place; Jaquie Shaw, second; and Daylen Brooks, third.

 

Thursday was a day of celebration and preparation. It was determined after a week of physical and mental competition among color teams, that the Black team had earned the most points to claim the title of Color Competition Champions. Toward the end of the evening, the campers transformed from casually-clad kiddos into stunning evening gown wearing ladies and well-groomed gentlemen for the 2015 prom. As the evening of dancing and laughter wound down, the highly anticipated crowing of the prom king and queen took place. Ajecia Gerrard was crowned prom queen and Eddy Martinez was crowned prom king. The night ended with the recognition of the graduates Gerard Escobar, Nicolas Huether, Eddy Martinez, and Hector Faudoa. 

 

The conclusion of Camp Okawehna on Friday morning is always bittersweet. Campers exchange information with their new friends and vow to keep up with their old friendships. As campers and counselors share final hugs and tearful goodbyes, we know that our warriors have added a few more superpowers to their arsenal. The week of camp has given them hope and renewed confidence. Every hot day and long night of serving, watching, and providing medical treatment to the campers is made worth it when we see their smiles and we hear their young voices proclaim, “I’ll see you next year.” Indeed, we’ll see you next year Superhero. Stay strong.

 

We’d like to thank all of the volunteers and donors who contributed to making Camp Okawehna possible. Every talent and gift was appreciated. We were honored to have special guest appearances at camp from: Circus Mojo, McKeel Martial Arts, the Natural History Education Company of the Midsouth (NHECM) and Home Depot. 

Camp Okawehna 2014 

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.

 

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.

 

Thank you to our vendors for your generous financial and product support:

ALSCO (Mike Rigli)

Baptist Hospital Credit Union

Chick-fil-a

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

Patrick and Ellen Donlon

Publix

Smart Circle International

Tennessee Kidney Foundation

Texas Children’s Hospital (Meredith Vela)

US National Guard

WR Newman General Contractors

 

Camp O 2016

Camp O 2015

Contribute to Camp O!

Camp Okawehna relies on voluntary donations and fundraising to provide our programs free of charge. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and all donations are tax deductible.

 

The cost for one child to attend camp is $65 (excluding travel expenses). While some children may be able to afford this, others may not. We welcome any donation that will help a child attend camp.

 

We would be appreciative of any solicitation to your local organizations on the Camp’s behalf for financial support. Kidney Foundations and medical groups are a great place to start.

 

For more information, please contact:


Andy Parker

Phone: (615) 327-3061

Fax: (605) 341-8814

Email: CampO@dciinc.org