Giving kids with sickle-cell a brighter summer, one step at a time

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BY: DELLIA RISMAY 

Sickle-cell disease can be a challenge for anyone to deal with, but it can be especially difficult for a child. SCD affects people from all walks of life, but can commonly be found in those of African, Latin, South Asian, and Mediterranean descent. A person with SCD can be prone to crisis episodes, where their sickle-shaped blood cells (healthy red blood cells look like doughnuts) block small blood vessels throughout their body, which can cause pain lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Because these crisis episodes can be triggered by changes in temperature, vigorous exercise, dehydration, or other activities, things like going away to summer camp can be out of reach for children with the blood disease. That’s why Camp Jumoke has made it their mission to provide a place for kids to experience the joy and adventure of camping, all while being under medical supervision. This spring, Camp Jumoke will be partnering with the Mississauga Marathon to help some deserving children play games, participate in physical activity, and meet new friends at camp.

Camp Jumoke came to be in 1994 when a group of healthcare professionals and individuals saw the need for children with SCD to have an opportunity to simply be kids. While there are clear physical benefits of participating in camp activities, Camp Jumoke also aims to improve the emotional well-being of their campers by helping them find new friends that are experiencing the same disease. “They organized Camp Jumoke so these kids could have an opportunity, first of all, to connect,” says Camp Jumoke’s treasurer, Dianne Allison. “When they’re sick, they can be in the hospital at very sporadic times, and not actually get to meet each other. So, this is an environment where the kids are able to attend camp, to network and have an understanding of other children going through a sickle-cell crisis.”

When children attend Camp Jumoke, they participate in activities like canoe trips and hiking, activities that they may not do very often both because of the restrictive nature of SCD, and the expense of going on a camping trip. The camp is run entirely by volunteers, including doctors, nurses, and other practitioners from Sick Kids Hospital, as well as other GTA health centers.

Camp Jumoke has sent over 600 Canadian children to camp at no cost to their families, relying solely on fundraising efforts and donations as the organization does not receive any government funding. The cost for each child to attend Camp Jumoke for two weeks is over $2,200, a cost that is too high for many families to shoulder on their own. To be able to continue to send children with SCD to camp, Camp Jumoke will be participating in the Mississauga Marathon as a part of the Novo Nordisk “Hazel” five kilometre run/walk, which will take place on Saturday, May 5th, beginning at Lakeshore Road West and Front Street South at 6 p.m. Allison asks that the community comes out to help Camp Jumoke reach their fundraising goal of $10,000, enough to send five kids to camp. “We encourage everybody to register and come out, fundraise and walk and join us,” she says.

To help Camp Jumoke achieve their goal of sending kids with SCD to camp, send an email to cjwalk@jumoke.org to register for the Mississauga Marathon, or visit mississaugamarathon.com to make a donation. For information on how to help support Camp Jumoke year-round, call 416-410-2995.

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