July 9, 2014 11:32 pm

Summer camp outside Edmonton caters to children with specialized medical needs

Watch above: Camp Everest caters to kids who need special care, especially those who have had brain or spinal cord surgery. Su-Ling Goh gets a tour.

EDMONTON – Spending time at summer camp is something many children do year after year. But for those who have complex medical needs, heading off to camp can be risky.

That’s why Wendy Beaudoin decided to start a camp of her own, after her daughter Olivia – who has undergone 20 brain surgeries and 11 spinal surgeries – was turned down by a regular camp.

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Global News

“Of course, she was devastated,” Beaudoin said.

Named ‘Camp Everest’ and located just an hour outside of Edmonton, it primarily caters to children who have had brain and spinal surgeries.

“But really, we’ll really take anybody,” Beaudoin explained.

“I think the point of this camp is to take everybody who doesn’t have anywhere else to go.”

From scavenger hunts and rock wall climbing to swimming and campfires, Camp Everest offers everything a regular camp does, and makes sure all campers participate in every event.

“Every event we do is adapted. So whether they’re in a wheelchair, whether they have significant mobility issues or whether they’re perfectly able, the challenges are all adapted so that they all participate at the same time,” said Beaudoin.

Camp volunteers include nurses, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists and physical therapists. It means there is one medical professional for every child, and Beaudoin says it allows the children to receive the care they need, without missing out on the fun.

“There’s no point that they have to be out of an event or away from an event.”

Sienna Wood travelled from Calgary to attend the four-day camp for the first time this year.

“I love this camp, it’s awesome,” she said with much enthusiasm.

“It’s everything I love like activities and science experiments.”

The eight-year-old has had 33 surgeries, 29 of which were to her brain. She and other campers say it’s nice to be around other kids who are going through the same thing.

“Sometimes it gets old talking about my story and all that kind of stuff,” she said. “It’s my days off. Summer is my days off talking about it.”

“You go to all these doctor’s appointments, you go through so much and the other kids just think you’re normal,” added Olivia Beaudoin.

Now in its fourth year, Camp Everest has 52 children attending this weekend’s camp. When it started, there were 17 kids.

“We have kids who are palliative and will probably not make it to the next camp,” Beaudoin said. “So the option of turning them away, it’s not an option for us.”

The cost of accommodating 52 campers for four days is $40,000, which is completely donor-funded. For more information, visit Camp Everest’s website.

With files from Su-Ling Goh, Global News.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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