For more than 11 million children and adults, summer camp provides an escape from everyday life — a chance to enjoy the outdoors, meet new people, and participate in fun and exciting activities. For 23-year-old Jessica Heirtzler, summer camp has provided her with much more than a week away from home — camp saved her life.
Heirtzler was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when she was 8-years-old. For years, she lived with constant debilitating pain, doctor’s appointments, medications, and emotional issues. It wasn’t until she first attended Camp Oasis as a high school junior that she felt like herself.
“Camp saved my life. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t have to hide who I truly was,” Heirtzler said. “Everyone at camp — both campers and volunteers- taught me that Crohn’s isn’t who I am, but it is a part of me and I should embrace it. Camp Oasis helped me grow into a confident woman who accepts and loves herself for exactly who she is. I am now completely open about having Crohn’s disease and I have Camp Oasis to thank for that.”
Camp Oasis is the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s (CCF) summer camp program that enriches the lives of children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis by providing them with a safe and supportive camp community. CCF runs 12 week-long camp sessions across the country, attracting not only campers but also hundreds of volunteer counselors and medical professionals. CCF underwrites 65 percent of the cost of camp attendance, and scholarships are available for campers-in-need.
Disney Channel Liv and Maddie actor Benjamin King, a Crohn’s disease patient, stresses the importance of having an outlet like Camp Oasis for children with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis to come together.
“Dealing with Crohn’s as an adult, I know how difficult it can be to cope with this disease. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for children to live with the debilitating pain and uncertainty Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can cause,” King said. “As a father, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits that summer camp has on children. The existence of Camp Oasis to give children with Crohn’s and colitis a safe environment to come together and bond over a shared experience is tremendous.”
Applications are open today for Camp Oasis’s 2016 summer sessions:
Camp Oasis of Michigan
Session Dates: Sunday, July 10th - Saturday, July 16th
Host Site: YMCA Camp Copneconic - Fenton, MI
Camp Oasis of Minnesota
Session Dates: Monday, July 25th - Saturday, July 30th
Host Site: One Heartland - Willow River, MN
Camp Oasis of Missouri
Session Dates: Sunday, August 7th - Sunday, August 11th
Host Site: YMCA Camp Lakewood - Potosi, MO
Camp Oasis of New York
Session Dates: Tuesday, August 16th - Sunday, August 21st
Host Site: Camp Scatico - Elizaville, NY
Camp Oasis of Pennsylvania
Session Dates: Monday, August 15th - Saturday, August 20th
Host Site: Camp Nock-A-Mixon - Kintnersville, PA
Camp Oasis of Texas
Session Dates: Saturday, August 13th - Wednesday, August 17th
Host Site: URJ Greene Family Camp - Bruceville, TX
Camp Oasis of Washington
Session Dates: Sunday, June 26th - Saturday, July 2nd
Host Site: YMCA Camp Colman - Longbranch, WA
Camp Oasis of Wisconsin
Session Dates: Sunday, August 14th - Friday, August 19th
Host Site: Lutherdale Ministries - Elkhorn, WI
Camp Oasis of West Virginia
Session Dates: Tuesday, June 21st - Saturday, June 25th
Host Site: Camp Tall Timbers - High View, WV
For more information about the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America visit www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org.