Research reveals life-changing impact of Camp Oasis on kids with IBD

Winter temperatures are here but families are already beginning to make summer plans for their children. Enrollment for Camp Oasis, our sleepaway camp for kids with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), opens on February 1.


Camp Oasis group photo


Feedback from campers and their parents has always been overwhelmingly positive, but our recently published eight-year study confirms the positive impact that Camp Oasis has on campers’ well-being and feelings of self-worth, including:


  • Campers showed measurable gains in confidence, independence, and learning new skills. 
  • Campers learned about managing their IBD and showed improvements in taking their medication as expected. 
  • Campers’ feelings of belonging increased significantly, and they felt more open talking about their disease and more hopeful about their future living with IBD. 


Dr. Steven Steiner, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Riley Children’s Health in Indiana, is a medical director at Camp Oasis of Michigan and a primary contributor to the study. We spoke with Dr. Steiner to learn more about the significance of these findings. 


In your opinion, what are the more noteworthy results of the study?

Steven Steiner, MD

Steven J. Steiner, MD, Medical Director, Camp Oasis of Michigan


I think one of the most important takeaways is that pediatric IBD can be a very isolating disease, and Camp Oasis has proven to be a mechanism for patients—and their families—to overcome this barrier and continue the process of becoming young adults who can practice self-care more effectively. 


I think the data provides objective evidence of what all camp volunteers have observed—the multiple important ways that Camp Oasis influences young people living with IBD. We found this to be particularly true for first-time campers.


As a doctor who recommends camp to your patients, what do the study results mean to you? 


The study allows me to provide evidence beyond my own personal experience to share with patients and families. 


I want camp to be a positive experience for our patients—one that they will remember fondly and look forward to repeating. I think our findings are partly a result of that great experience and we should continue to make camp fun and enjoyable. 

Campers painting


How do patients or parents respond when you first tell them about Camp Oasis? 


There are many different reactions, but encouraging a patient to come to camp for the first time is the most important step. After their first year, they usually want to come back every year!


I think many parents have qualms about sending their child with a chronic disease and daily care requirements to a week-long overnight camp. Having a personal connection, such as their doctor or nurse recommending the camp or even attending camp as a volunteer, is a huge selling point. 

Campers dancing


Feelings of belonging and openness increased among campers who attend Camp Oasis. Why is that important? 


This is critically important. Most of my patients do not know a single other young person with IBD until they attend camp. Once there, a new circle of friends with a shared experience opens up to them. Many kids are reluctant to talk about their disease or symptoms with people who are not familiar with the disease, given its sensitive nature. But when everyone at camp has experienced these symptoms, it becomes easy to share and talk and bond. 

I believe that the young campers are inspired seeing the older campers and counselors with IBD having a great time and trying new things, which then helps them to break out of their own shells, make new friends, try new experiences, and, perhaps most importantly, open up about their own disease and experience, which they may have never had a chance to do before. 


I enjoy seeing teamwork among the campers as well as among and with the counselors … whether it’s playing sports or making friendship bracelets or preparing for the talent show. It’s remarkable to see their confidence grow.

Learn more about Camp Oasis, including its virtual option, enrollment, scholarships, and travel stipends, here.


Learn more about the Camp Oasis research study here