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.”
Applications open today for Camp Oasis’s 2016 summer sessions. Camp Oasis is the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s (CCFA) 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. CCFA runs 12 week-long camp sessions across the country, attracting not only campers but also hundreds of volunteer counselors and medical professionals. CCFA underwrites 65 percent of the cost of camp attendance, and scholarships are available for campers-in-need.
Camp Oasis of California will take place June 20- June 25, 2016 at the Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times in Mountain Center, Calif. For more information about Camp Oasis or to apply, visit www.ccfa.org/get-involved/camp-oasis/
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.”