YMCA Camp Duncan Hosts Annual Kidney Camp

August 7, 2015

Kidney Camp hosts youth living with kidney disease, on dialysis and those who have received organ transplants

For many kids, summer camp is a norm between school years. For some, however, camp can be a daunting summer activity hindered by health concerns, medical needs and financial restraints as a result of kidney disease or transplantation.  This past July, from Sunday, July 19 to Friday, July 24, local kids ages 8 to 17 attended the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois’ Kidney Camp, an overnight camp dedicated to providing lively camp activities and connecting youths affected by kidney disease or transplantation.

The National Kidney Foundation sent campers to YMCA Camp Duncan in Ingleside, Illinois.  This year, ten children were immersed in a traditional camp experience, which included horseback riding, boating, swimming, arts and crafts, games and other outdoor activities, with more than 180 other campers. Kidney Camp is free of charge and offers health services from experienced medical professionals. Connie Robinson, Nurse and Manager of Patient Programs for the NKFI, attended the camp for the first time this year. Her role, along with medical volunteers, involved administering the kids’ medicines and peritoneal dialysis treatments, providing transportation for hemodialysis patients and overseeing the general care of the campers.

During Connie’s interactions with them, she learned how camp was truly instrumental in building independence and propelling personal and emotional growth for the kids. “This is an opportunity for them to have an experience that other kids have and totally forget about their kidney disease,” Connie stated. She further explained that she only saw most of the kids when it was time for their medications or treatments because they were enjoying the camp’s festivities.

When treating a boy who injured his arm and another who had a slight fever, both refused to let minor injuries prevent them from going to the camp’s dance on the last night. “One told me even if his arm was falling off, and the other one said even if I can’t hold my head up straight, [they wouldn’t miss the dance] because they had young ladies who were expecting them to be there,” Connie said.

Since its inception, hundreds of kids have been given the opportunity to attend Kidney Camp and connect with peers who have similar conditions, at no cost to their family.

Kidney Camp is made possible by generous sponsors and donors.

The connections and friendships built at Kidney Camp were a main attraction and relief for parents of the campers. “[One camper’s] parents said socialization and interacting with other children was a big reason why they were sending her to camp,” Connie said. “[Kidney Camp] is about emotional and personal growth for these kids as well.”

Reflecting on her first experience with Kidney Camp, Connie concluded, “A child on hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis wouldn’t get to go to an overnight camp, and I think [Kidney Camp] is an experience they’ll never forget. They had the opportunity to build lasting friendships. It’s an excellent opportunity for them to test their wings without their parents being afraid.”

Kidney Camp allows children with kidney disease, who may be unable to travel or partake in certain activities, a place to practice independence, connect with other youth and participate in camp events while still receiving medical care.


                                                 2014 Kidney Camp attendees
About the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois
The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois improves the health and well-being of people at risk for and affected by kidney disease through prevention, education and empowerment.