17 Jun 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.

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.


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

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.”

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.


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.

“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.”

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.”


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

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

To learn more or make a donation to Camp Okawehna, please visit: https://www.dciinc.org/campo/.


Founded in 1971, Dialysis Clinic, Inc. (DCI) is the nation’s largest non-profit dialysis provider with over 230 outpatient dialysis clinics in 28 states. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, DCI employs over 5,000 people serving approximately 15,000 dialysis patients. DCI’s services include in-center hemodialysis, in-center self-care hemodialysis, home hemodialysis, Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis (CAPD), and Continuous Cycling Peritoneal Dialysis (CCPD). Acute dialysis facilities are located within hospitals around the US. The United States Renal Data System has found DCI to have the lowest patient mortality and hospitalization rates among the national dialysis providers for the last 13 years. DCI operates under the mission “We are a non-profit service organization. The care of the patient is our reason for existence.” For more information on the USRDS information, visit www.usrds.org.