Summer camp is a right-of-passage for many children and teens across Canada. The camp experience of making new friends, being out of the watchful eye of parents, and exploring a world outside of your hometown is highly sought after.
How then to bring that experience to children living with arthritis? Most camps are not designed to meet the needs of children with different levels of mobility and activity, and camp can be expensive for families already carrying the extra costs of the treatments and adaptations their child needs.
For children in the Maritimes, the answer is Camp JoinTogether
. Now in its fifth successful year, Camp JoinTogether invites children from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island who are living with arthritis to “join together” at a camp specifically designed to accommodate their needs. From its earnest but humble beginnings as a three-day camp for 37 kids, JoinTogether has grown to this year welcome 80 campers for a six-day experience learning about nature, adventure and friendship, all while being mindful of living with arthritis.
“What I love about Camp JoinTogether is that you can be yourself and you don’t have to worry about people judging you because they know what you’re going through,” camper Hannah Richard stated proudly while reflecting on her recent trip to camp. “At Camp JoinTogether, you have a great experience and meet people you’ll be friends with instantly.”
Hannah’s parents, who raised $7,000 for the camp this year by walking 493kms during the month of March (the distance from their home to the camp) also praise Camp JoinTogether. “We are so thankful for the opportunity to send Hannah to this wonderful camp for the fourth year,” says Hannah's mother Jocelyn. “She looks forward to it all year long and her experiences there never disappoint. She has developed a kinship with the girls and looks forward to catching up with them.”
The Arthritis Society provides three nurses for the week at camp, who graciously take time off work to attend in order to assist with treatment for campers. It says a lot for the experience that the nurses keep coming back; two are on their fourth year, and one is on her third. And they are all thrilled to be invited back for next year.
“I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis about 10 years ago, and I volunteered for the camp, thinking that I would be able to teach these kids that anything is possible,” nurse Heather Pemberton recalled. “After all, I had just completed the Half Marathon in Disney in 2014, still played soccer, baseball and golfed with this annoying disease. But instead, these children have taught me so much and they are truly inspirational!!”
To help keep the costs down for the campers’ families, each of The Arthritis Society’s Maritimes Divisions holds awareness and fundraising events throughout the year. These events provide necessary funds to help ensure that every eligible camper that registers for the camp is able to attend and to benefit from a unique summer camp experience.
You can help.
To support Camp JoinTogether and make a lasting impact on the life of a child with arthritis, visit our website for information on the upcoming Jingle Bell Walk and Run
and how you can help raise money for Camp JoinTogether in your community.