WAVE Camp – Because every child deserves a trip to the shore
Happy Campers - Ashawn and Messiah catch some rays at WAVE Camp
Watching waves scatter while strolling up the boardwalk and enjoying the goodies from food vendors is a time-honored tradition of the Jersey Shore. Voorhees Pediatric Facility (VPF) is ensuring that this wonderful experience is extended to those who would normally miss out on this tradition. Through its New Jersey WAVE (Wonderful Adolescent Ventilator Excursion) Camp, VPF takes kids on mechanical ventilation out of the hospital, nursing facilities and homes to give them a chance for a vacation at the shore. Some of the medically fragile 8-to 18-year-old campers have never even been too far from home, let alone to the shore, and are overjoyed with the three-day vacation the WAVE program provides.
Any child with a stable medical condition will be considered for the WAVE program: children with neuromuscular disease, lung disease, hearing or visual impairment etc. Many campers have a myriad of equipment that usually limits their mobility, such as medical ventilation, tracheostomy tubes, feeding tubes and wheelchairs. An experienced team of nurses, respiratory therapists and doctors, including a pediatric pulmonologist, staff the camp 24-hours a day.
VPF and its sister company Weisman Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital have supported the WAVE camp since its inception in 1998— both an extension of their missions to advance the potential of medically fragile children and as a way to give back to their community. Supplemented with outside donations, the program is free of charge for those attending.
The program could not succeed without the hard work and passion of a large number of local community organizations and volunteers in the Jersey Shore area as well. The Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church provides the facility to house the campers. Community volunteers assist with the program's daily activities, which may include fishing with assistive technology or playing in shallow ocean waves using specialized wheelchairs. Many of the same volunteers come back year after year, often bringing more friends each time. The camp provides an opportunity for those that want to help others do something in their own community. Some volunteers have been so moved and inspired from their WAVE camp experiences that they have chosen to pursue careers in healthcare.
Another key aspect of the WAVE program is that the adolescent campers get to interact with kids their own age, including young volunteers who don't have complex medical needs, instead of nurses, doctors or parents. Given that some patients are home-bound, and interaction with peers is very limited, this type of opportunity is especially important.
Thanks to New Jersey WAVE Camp, a special population of kids can go to the beach and share the same delightful summer vacation experience as countless others.
This story was inspired by the Children’s Hospitals Photo Exhibit. For more pictures, visit http://bit.ly/2voAvBe.