Supporting Families at Camp Wapiyapi

Camp Wapiyapi campers and staff

For the youngest members of society, summer time is synonymous with family vacations, swimming at the pool, movies with friends, and kids just being kids. For some children, there is also the option of attending a summer camp, where they can meet new friends and learn new skills and games. At a camp located in the Pike National Forest near Woodland Park, Camp Wapiyapi, children can participate in fun activities such as “color games” – where kids throw colored powder at each other – rope courses, archery, biking, and singing around a campfire.

SD Hassell and a camper

However, unlike other summer camps, the children who attend Camp Wapiyapi are pediatric patients with cancer and their siblings. In between activities, these children must stay on top of their medications, which are administered by volunteer physicians and nurses.

Among those volunteers were RVUCOM second-years students: Danielle Kauppinen; Danielle Coleman; Brent Nolan; Gracie Swanberg; Christine Hassel; Mikayla Scharnhorst; Ariana Schuelke; Uday Patel; and Natalie Eidson. For the week-long camp, each student was assigned the role of companion to a child, making sure that their medication dosage was correct and that they were having fun.

“I was paired with an older kiddo who had been to camp before,” said SD Kauppinen. “During my preparation for camp and conversations with his mom, I was nervous about the demands his mom said I could face. Instead, I was blown away by how much fun I had, new challenges my camper endeavored in with encouragement, and the empathy I built for both my camper and his family.”

Back row, l-r: SDs Uday Patel, Mikayla Scharnhorst, Brent Nolan, Gracie Swanberg, and Danielle Coleman. Front row: SDs Natalie Eidson, Christine Hassell

“It was two weeks full of laughs, learning, and love,” said SD Hassell. “Being in the mountains with the kids at Wapiyapi reminded me to always take the time to feel sunshine, notice the little things, and embrace my goofy side.”

Since its founding in 1998, Camp Wapiyapi has provided fun camp experiences to pediatric patients with cancer ages 6 -17 and their siblings. The camp also offers these experiences at no cost to the families.

“It was truly an honor to be with my kiddo for a week,” said SD Kauppinen. “I am hopeful that I helped him have plain kid fun and think less about his medical condition for a week.”

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