Camp Oasis: Making Summer Memories for Kids With IBD

Camp Oasis 2023


"Our son had such a life-changing time that I wanted to compile all of the pictures into an album for him. He has already made plans to have a rendezvous with his fellow campers during their fall break from school. "– Parent of a Camp Oasis camper.


Arriving at Camp Oasis, you see a lot of anxious faces. Many of the kids and teens being dropped off for the week, and even some of the parents hugging them goodbye, have an apprehension that is twofold: a week away from home surrounded by new people can be stressful enough, but especially to a kid with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).


By the end of the week, you would never have guessed the smiling, laughing kids hugging their cabinmates goodbye and already planning for the next summer were the same as these quiet, timid new arrivals. One camp director puts it this way, at Camp Oasis, you see “anxiety transform in real time.”


As we close out Camp Oasis 2023, we reflect on the community built this summer and what Camp Oasis has meant for pediatric IBD patients for more than 25 years. Described by one mental health provider as “resiliency in motion,” Camp Oasis is just that. Kids and teens, whose IBD has affected every area of their lives and who feel isolated from their peers, get to just be kids for a week. They may not escape their symptoms, but for a week, they can rest easy knowing their needs are being accommodated and that every other camper and many of the counselors have lived the same experience as them.


What’s significant for many campers is that camp does not focus on IBD. Apart from a few informational sessions about IBD, camp is just about camp. The IBD connections are fostered among campers in moments as small as running to the restroom at the same time as another camper. What isolates these kids and teens elsewhere brings them closer together at Camp Oasis.


This summer, 761 campers attended in-person camps, a 32% increase from 2022. Across the country, and from the comfort of home, 183 campers tuned in for virtual camp. That’s more than 900 kids and teens.


The impact of Camp Oasis has been highlighted by recent research findings published in Crohn's & Colitis 360, based on comprehensive survey data. The study found that our camp provides a life-changing experience for youth with IBD, reduces disease-related stigma, and enhances confidence and social skills.


We heard back from some parents of our campers, who were thrilled to share the impact that camp had on their children:


"We had a really hard year with our son’s colitis. I’ve watched him over the last several months struggle so much. He was feeling defeated and frustrated by his symptoms … I can’t begin to put into words how much of an impact camp has. Thank you for hosting such an incredible camp and giving these kids a chance to thrive."


"I have been wanting to write and tell you how beneficial the camp was for my daughter … She made a friend across the U.S. and they chat every day. Her mom and I have connected as well and have already begun to share the trials and tribulations we experience as parents of children with Crohn’s and colitis."


"Both of my boys had a blast and many memories were made! As always, they both loved Oasis Fest the most! They are already looking forward to next year."


"She absolutely loved attending this camp and had a blast. The Kumospace platform was so awesome and she won’t stop talking about how fun and interactive it was!! She keeps asking me if she can sign up again next year, and if there are any other upcoming events. Thank you again for creating such a fun and safe environment where she can learn more about Crohn’s and meet kids just like her along the way!"


"This year was my daughter’s first year at Camp Oasis. She absolutely loved it and is already talking about next year!"


Camp Oasis 2024 feels far away right now, but we look forward to another summer of fun activities, newfound friendships, renewed confidence for our campers, and getting back to our home away from home. See you next summer, campers!


You can make an impact on IBD cures! Please consider making a donation to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.