Dear families and supporters,
Every year I reflect on the beautiful gift of life. This post, and all we do at camp, is dedicated to all the donors and their loved ones. While the sentiments in this morning’s post are a rehash of thoughts I’ve shared many times before and posts from past years, it is truly the essence of our camp and worth sharing again and again. Camp Kivita is a celebration of the gift of life; it is the embodiment of how organ donation and transplantation can transform lives. Our 78 campers encapsulate what living life is all about and exemplify the success of organ donation and transplantation at its very core. Living and exploring, feeling nature, inspiring and challenging others, participating in sports and arts, making new friends and reuniting with old ones, learning, cheering, swimming, running, tie-dying, kayaking, competing or relaxing. Living each day. Whether they are laughing, pushing limits, gallivanting through nature, overcoming obstacles, trying new things, seeking solace in the vast space or reflective garden we enjoy at camp, challenging themselves, or supporting and just being with one another. Participants of Kivita are simply living life to the fullest.
This summer, 78 campers – including both those that have received an organ transplant and live with the gift of life, as well as some campers who are waiting, or require dialysis or live with intestinal or other organ failure - all share in this special camp experience. Our campers are bonded by a shared experience of organ donation and transplant in some way. Important, campers have the opportunity to be with others who have been through similar experiences, health care journeys, and to be able to create new and special memories that will last forever. It is amazing to observe campers sharing their transplant scars as badges of honour with tremendous pride. We often hear gushing “wow! Yours is sooooo cool! Check out mine!” It’s just plain awesome
I’ve reflected several times before that there is no more compelling case for success and impact of organ donation and transplantation than seeing campers of all ages – recipients of hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs and bowels experiencing the magic of camp in all its richness. We are deeply touched and inspired by our campers transplant stories, medical journeys, resilience and fortitude. We are continually in awe of the camper’s joyous spirit, their bravery and tenacity, and learn so much from them each week at camp. We are grateful for the trust of their parents to provide camp. We are thankful to the organ donors. Eleven years ago, a group of us who work in the field of organ transplantation and organ failure came together with a dream of celebrating children with transplants and providing a magical summer camp experience. Again this summer our Leaders in Training will work to develop leadership skills to help them throughout their lives, and importantly we have campers returning as volunteer staff to continue the magic and give back.
Organ transplantation is a very unique and special field. Organ transplantation works – thanks to the critical life changing decision of so many families to donate their loved ones organs, our children have the opportunity to live and thrive. But there is a lot of work to be done to raise awareness about organ donation and transplantation in Canada. Our rates of donation are far too low. There are too many people languishing on wait lists across Canada waiting for a donor. The message we would like to spread widely is that we support presumed consent/opt-out legislation and the improvement of all organ donation/transplant systems to reduce organ donation wait times and help save lives. Help us spread the work and advocate for change. Please let us know if you would like me if get involved with these efforts this year.
This year we have joined with the Jacobs family and other supportive organizations such as the Kidney Foundation, who are leading work to advocate for new legislation on presumed consent for organ donation. The number of people waiting for a transplant each day in Canada is vast. They are our beloved family members, friends, children, and peers. We know that organ transplantation works yet so few people have actually registered their consent to donate. Please help to spread the word about organ donation – encourage people to have a discussion, learn more, and register to become a donor (www.beadonor.ca).
Before closing, I wanted to reshare the picture above as it remains one of my favorites from camp several years ago. I was walking along and came across a young camper, a heart transplant recipient, standing alone bent over and reflecting. I observed her as she seemed melancholy in her reverie. She had been extremely homesick the first few days and was adjusting as this was her first time away from home; my instinct was to run over and see if she was okay but I held back. I stood for a moment and watched her – she was just reflecting, watching something in the periphery of the woods overlooking the lake. After a couple of seconds she looked up, looked at me and bounded happily over. I asked her how she was and she replied “I'M SO AWESOME”. And she was. Despite feelings of missing home and adjusting to camp, her ability to find a moment to just be and allow her feelings to be expressed, she recognized her own fortitude and strength and this day was the beginning of her flourishing at camp. She was indeed just so awesome. It is these small but critical moments that touch our hearts and bring such joy.
As you view the pictures and anecdotes from camp that we will be posting, we hope that you will share in the exuberance, joy and magic of camp and see how transplantation has transformed lives – and in that, you will see the beautiful, magnificent gift of life shining through.
Have a wonderful day!
Yours in Camping,
On behalf of the camp team