Growing up with epilepsy is hard. It’s scary and isolating. Some know this first-hand, while others know it from raising a child with epilepsy. Parents and family members give much-needed support, but for kids with epilepsy, finding others who understand what they’re going through is important. This is the reason for Camp Oz, a week-long summer camp for youth ages 9-17.
“Most kids really take away some great memories and friendships from camp. It’s helped me learn how important it is for people with chronic health conditions to know they aren’t alone and other kids have the same experiences,” says psychologist and Camp Oz counselor Dr. Julia Doss.
Dr. Doss has a specialty in pediatric psychology and began volunteering as the camp counselor in 2008. She’s on-site throughout the day, and works closely with camp staff to resolve any issues that may arise.
“Campers get to meet other kids who have gone through similar things and learn they can do normal camp activities just like a person without epilepsy,” says Dr. Doss.
Instead of being the one who is different, because of their seizures, youth with epilepsy are surrounded by others just like them. They can relax knowing if they have a seizure, on-site nurses are there to help, and other kids won’t think any different of them.
“Camp Oz taught me the only job I have is to be myself. That’s what Camp Oz is, a place for people like me to be themselves and live their normal lives without any sort of judgment or ridicule,” says former Camp Oz camper Ben Stowell.
Being themselves includes making friends, trying new things like rock climbing and archery, and developing a sense of independence. For many campers, this is the longest period of time they’ll be away from home. For any kid, that can be life-changing.
“I definitely feel like the most powerful and impactful program I’ve taken advantage of is Camp Oz. It’s a great place to learn more about yourself and others at the same time,” says camper Olivia Devaraj.
Keeping our campers safe is a top priority. So is making sure parents feel their child is safe.Our staff, nurses, and volunteers are all able to respond to seizures and keep camp a safe place for all.
“It can be scary sending kids away to a camp when you might be afraid they could have a seizure. At Camp Oz there are so many people trained in and familiar with seizures that it really is a wonderful environment for them to be away from home, have the support of other people, and do normal kid things,” says Dr. Doss.
Parents, however, should be warned that once their kid goes it’s going to become a new yearly tradition.
“This was our son’s first year at Camp Oz and it was such a great experience. The best part was how much fun Jakob had. He can’t wait to go back next year,” says a parent to a Camp Oz camper.