Children’s staff members bring summer camp fun to patients with juvenile arthritis

Camp ArticulAction was developed in partnership with the Arthritis Society and the Division of Rheumatology at the Montreal Children’s Hospital

What if summer camp wasn’t just fun, but was also adapted to the needs of patients with juvenile arthritis? Thanks to a unique partnership with the Arthritis Society and the Division of Rheumatology at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, Camp ArticulAction offers just that.

Earlier this month, 42 campers -- including a few Children’s patients -- aged 8 to 16 years old enjoyed a week of fun, adapted physical activity and time spent in the great outdoors. They were accompanied by Children’s staff members Dr. Sarah Campillo, pediatric rheumatologist and founder of Camp ArticulAction, as well as nurses Charlene Hopper (rheumatology), Nadia Narducci (rheumatology), Lina Moisan and Sue Younglai, along with pediatric resident Marie-Pier Dumas.

For the past 14 years, the camp’s goal has been to expose kids managing a chronic illness like juvenile arthritis or a rheumatic disease to a variety of fun activities, and get them to meet others who are thriving, while living with the same condition. This year, the camp welcomed children and teens to a new location on Lake Massawippi in Ayer’s Cliff – an environment that was completely adapted to the campers’ needs.

“Our theme this year was “celebrations”,” says Dr. Sarah Campillo. “From making birthday cakes, to enjoying treasure hunts, writing friendship cards and even enjoying a campers’ Christmas, everyone participated in a host of activities, including water skiing and adapted tubing! Campers also had the opportunity to meet renowned speaker Luca “LazyLegs”, an inspirational breakdance dancer who doesn’t let his loss of motor skills discourage him, as well as Hugues Létournau who has a great career in radio hosting despite living with arthritis.”

Thanks to a team of incredible camp counselors specializing in working with children with physical limitations, campers were treated to an unforgettable week of activity and creativity. “With the medical team on hand at all times to help monitor campers’ health and their adherence to treatment and golf carts to ensure that campers got from point A to point B in a pain-free manner, the camp provides a really comfortable environment within which to let loose,” says Dr. Campillo.

“It’s magical,” says Lili-Jeanne, a 14-year old camper. “Everyone here understands each other. Every time I leave, I look forward to coming back!”