The camps have been around for more than 20 years, but this is the first camp season back since 2019 because of the pandemic.
Parents said the camps are sort of like a rite of passage for the kids. While kids can expect the typical camp activities, they also take the first steps in learning how to manage their conditions away from their parents.
Since 1999, Camp Brave Eagle has been a place of freedom and fun. And for kids living with blood disorders, it’s a bit a freedom they don’t always have.
“I think the biggest thing that helps me feel comfortable about sending them is that all of their doctors and nurses and medical staff, they all go up there with them for that whole week,” said Vanessa Flora.
Her sons, Elias and Emmett, will both attend Camp Brave Eagle. The boys have hemophilia, a disorder that keeps the blood from clotting. That means injuries can often bleed longer. And for active kids, that puts them at risk.
“So light injuries to the head or the joints can be very serious,” Flora said.
Camp Brave Eagle is held at the YMCA’s Camp Crosley in northern Indiana. Silver Moon Camp is held on site, too, and provides necessary self-management tools to kids living with sickle cell anemia. But alongside the camp, counselors are professionals trained to respond in the event a kid gets hurt.
“It just gives them a whole community of people who are sharing in the same challenges that they have,” said hemophilia nurse practitioner Jennifer Maahs.
And for kids who’ve been stuck doing virtual learning away from their friends, it’s important to be back together.
“We’ll have one kid who says I’m not doing it, I’m not sticking a needle in my arm. And then he’ll see his campmate doing it and then it becomes kind of cool. So we really trying to normalize it,” Maahs said.
Kids who succeed are rewarded. This summer is Emmett’s first try.
“I might get my big stick,” he said.
The big stick is sort of a trophy, a wooden staff with the child’s name inscribed. Elias already earned his, so he’s looking forward to the camping experience again.
Registration for the hemophilia and sickle cell camps had to be limited to keep with pandemic protocols. Camp starts Sunday.