Edmonton camp for kids with disabilities, chronic illnesses a place for hope

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WATCH ABOVE: Dozens of kids had the chance to attend a special summer camp, thanks to medical students from the University of Alberta. The kids all live with complex medical issues and summer camp isn't normally an option. Julia Wong reports – Jul 8, 2018

Madison Berube is used to having a sore back.

At the young age of 13, Madison walks around constantly with a backpack, which weighs five pounds, that carries a machine acting as her artificial heart. The device restricts what she can do.

“No swimming. Not doing that much stuff. I’m not that active,” she said.

But on Saturday, Madison and approximately 35 other kids took part of the second annual Starlight Performance Camp, a one-day camp for children who live with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

READ MORE: Edmonton camp helps kids with illness or disability gain confidence through performing

The camp, which includes activities like cheerleading, dance, gymnastics and crafts, is organized by medical students at the University of Alberta.

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“A lot of these children here may not have had activities such as summer camps or day camps that… an average child may have,” said camp leader Tania Luthra, who is a third-year medical student.

Luthra said the camp is a chance to see the kids shine.

“As a medical student who may have seen these diagnoses in clinic, we talk a lot about the challenges about these diagnoses but here we get to see the hope,” she said.

“We get to see them behaving like any other child, which they are – they’re just any other child out there.”

Summer Teliani, 11, developed cancer just before she was three years old; this is her first time at the camp.

“It’s awesome. It’s really cool. It’s awesome for the people who volunteer here. Thanks so much,” she said.

Summer, who is now cancer-free, said she and the other campers have a special shared bond because they understand what one another is going through.

Her younger sister, Jenna, who was also at the camp, said she likes supporting her sister.

“She [had] a lot of hard times,” Jenna said.
“It makes me really happy [to see her doing gymnastics]. I see her happy. She’s not sad anymore and it just cheers me up.”
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As for Madison, she spent a couple of hours at the camp learning cheerleading moves from instructors.

“Sometimes I make up my own dances because I can’t do that much. But I can try and follow with them,” she said.

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