5W Wednesday: Camp Michitanki

Our 5W Wednesday series highlights a variety of health care organizations, professionals and programs that keep our community healthy.

What is Camp Michitanki?
Camp Michitanki is a summer camp just for kids who have received organ transplants. (Michitanki = Michigan + transplant + kids)

Camp Michitanki provides transplanted children with access to quality recreation, outdoor living and a unique opportunity for true peer interaction with other similarly challenged kids. Camp activities include horseback riding, swimming, sailing, canoeing, arts & crafts, archery, team building activities, nature walks, campfires, team sports, a rock climbing wall, a skateboard park and an aerial ropes course. Daily medications and health checks are built-in between activities. The kids are always pleasantly surprised to learn that everyone at camp has a surgical scar and takes daily medication. Strong friendships develop and campers often stay in touch between camp sessions.

Camp Michitanki expenses are approximately $65,000 each year, allowing 80 kids to go to camp. Since years of chronic illness, expensive medical treatments, and on-going medication requirements challenge even the most economically stable families, Camp Michitanki is funded entirely by donations and proceeds from fundraising events. Campers pay a $50 registration fee if they can afford it, but those who cannot are never turned away.

Camp Michitanki is for Michigan children 7-16 years of age who have had an organ transplant. Though it is a program of the University of Michigan Transplant Center, the camp has been established for all children in the Michigan area who have had an organ transplant, regardless of the center that performed the surgery or provides the follow-up care.

The camp is staffed entirely by volunteers. Transplant nurses, physicians, social workers and community volunteers work with YMCA staff to provide a “normal” and medically supervised camping experience.

When was the camp started?
In 1998, two nurses from the U-M transplant center began taking a group of children who had received liver transplants on a four day trip to West Virginia to attend an overnight camp for liver and intestinal transplant recipients hosted by the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. This trip grew and continued for five years, until the University of Michigan Transplant Center discussed the concept of creating a transplant camp within the state of Michigan and making it available to all organ recipients.

With the support of several transplant families, the transplant center, several pharmaceutical companies, a group of dedicated volunteers and the YMCA, Camp Michitanki was started in August 2003. The first annual camp was held at a camp leased from the YMCA from August 17-22, 2003 with 42 liver, heart and kidney transplant recipients.

Where is the camp?
Camp Michitanki is located at a century-old YMCA camp in beautiful Oscoda, Michigan on the shores of Lake Van Ettan. Campers are able to spend seven fun-filled days together on the camp’s more than 170 acres of great outdoors.

Why was it begun?
Many transplant recipients are discouraged from attending other summer camps due to their challenging medication schedules and special medical care requirements. Camp Michitanki provides children who have received organ transplants an opportunity to experience all of the joys, challenges and rewards of summer camp. The camp setting is also used to facilitate discussions of ongoing medical needs, teach important skills such as how to swallow pills and capsules and to explore strategies for the integration of post-transplant regimens with routine daily activities.

For more information on Camp Michitanki…
Email campmichitanki@umich.edu or call 734.615.4013.

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