Bringing a sense of victory to children’s hospital

by Ciera Choate

Lisa Bettendorf, 9, hangs out with Victory Junction intern Ashleigh Stufflebeam. Lisa is a patient at Presbyterian Hemby Children’s Hospital, and recently spent the day working on crafts and projects with Stufflebeam. Photo courtesy Presbyterian Healthcare

Not every child gets to enjoy the fun of summer camp and the games and camaraderie that go along with it. But thanks to Victory Junction, more kids in the Charlotte area are getting to experience what it’s like.

Since the opening of Presbyterian Hemby Children’s Hospital, Victory Junction has worked with the hospital to ensure patients with life-threatening illnesses are able to enjoy “normal” childhood activities. Since most children in the hospital are unable to do things like attend summer camp, Victory Junction brings the camp activities they are missing to the hospital.

In addition to doing activities with the children individually, the organization also hosts a camp day once a month at the hospital.  Ages 5 to 12 participate in camp day, but some older children are allowed to attend if they are interested.

“That program was new to the Charlotte area, and I’m pretty sure we are the only hospital in the area that has it, but they do work throughout the state,” Elizabeth Gray, a child life specialist at the hospital, said of the group.

Victory Junction supplies everything needed for activities, like making duct tape wallets and other kinds of arts and crafts, playing with trains or wooden cars and other activities. The children are never forced to participate in a certain activity, and if they want to do something different than the rest of the group the volunteers from Victory Junction do what they can to make the patients as happy and comfortable as possible.

“They kind of approached us about it and we have been really supportive of our patients going to their camp, and this was kind of an expansion of that. They really get to experience what they would do and meet the staff so parents are more comfortable with sending their kids to camp,” Gray said.

Photo courtesy Presbyterian Healthcare

To top off all Victory Junction does for the children’s hospital, they are now holding the inaugural family weekend for the patients at the hospital Oct. 12 to 14.  Patients are allowed to bring their entire family, parents and siblings included, but they have to be approved by a doctor before attending.

“This is their first hospital weekend,” Gray said. “We are focusing on our chronic illnesses that cause frequent hospitalizations.”

The camp has always taken patients from the hospital, but this will be the first year there will be one weekend dedicated to the Hemby Children’s Hospital.  Patients must be between ages 6 and 16 and a patient in one of their specialty practices.  Immediate families are allowed to attend, including siblings regardless of their age.  Thirty-two families will be selected to attend.

“As long as the doctor says they are appropriate we are happy to have them attend,” Gray said.

Families can apply to attend the camp, but the hospital has the final say in what families attend.

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