Camp Carpe Diem has had another successful year! This time under the sea with a Seas the Day theme. Over 100 campers and volunteers kicked off a week of fun on Memorial Day weekend at the Winder campus of Camp Twin Lakes, Will-a-Way. The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia had the chance to visit for a day mid-week, and joined eager campers as they lead spirit chants at lunch and prepared for the upcoming talent show. Acts ranged from choreographed dance numbers to martial arts, yet even for those who preferred to stay off the stage, there was a noticeable buzz of excitement across the camp for all activities.
Several kids who had been to Camp Carpe Diem before looked forward to seeing old friends, and took pride in making new friends to show them the ropes. A few happy campers made a point to mention that friendships with peers and guidance from counselors extend far beyond the week at Will-a-Way; making promises to text once their time together ended. One Camper Nina thinks back fondly stating “I have been to camp three years in a row. I did not feel different because we all have epilepsy at camp. Camp is opportunity to experience a lot of fun things with fun people my own age that also have epilepsy.” The fun included kayaking, horseback riding, swimming, art, biking, rock climbing and a camp dance. So much fun in fact Camper Victoria chimed in joking, “I love rest hour too, I need that nap after all of this!”
Camp Carpe Diem gives children with controlled epilepsy and seizure disorders, ages 7-15, the chance to experience overnight camp, and make memories that last a lifetime. We are so grateful to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Camp Twin Lakes, all volunteers, and to EFGA donors who helped made this dream possible for some of our campers. Follow our Instagram at @epilepsygeorgia or our Facebook @EpilepsyGeorgia to see snaps from our visit to Camp Carpe Diem.
For more information on the camp visit: https://www.choa.org/campcarpediem
For information on Camp Big Heart supporting school age children-age 60 visit: www.campbigheart.org
2017 Camp Dates Now Available
The Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia is pleased to announce the dates for the 2017 Epilepsy Summer Camp sessions.
Camp Carpe Diem
Camp Carpe Diem will run from Sunday, May 28 –Friday, June 2. This camp serves children ages 7-15 and is managed by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The camp is located at the Winder campus of Camp Twin Lakes, Will-a-Way. For more detailed information on Camp Carpe Diem, please go to www.choa.org/campcarpediem.
Camp Big Heart
Camp Big Heart serves children and adults who have epilepsy as well as a developmental disability. It is managed by Georgia Civitan and is held at Camp John Hope in Perry, Georgia.
There are three different sessions of the camp:
SESSION I: June 11-June 16 (School Age Campers)
SESSION II: June 18- June 23 (Young Adults and Higher Functioning Campers)
SESSION III: June 25 – June 30 (Older Adults – Max Age 60)
For more detailed information on Camp Big Heart and to access the registration materials, please go to www.campbigheart.com.
Both camps have full time coverage by medical staff and all counselors are trained in seizure recognition and first aid. The Epilepsy Foundation provides camp scholarship funding to both camps through grants. Please contact the individual camps for camp scholarship information.
EFGA recently wrapped up the 2015 session of Camp Carpe Diem. Jill, a member of both the Georgia affiliate’s Youth Advisory Council and the Georgia Board of Directors, served as a cabin counselor at this year’s camp. Here she shares her perspective of the camp program, both as a counselor and a person with epilepsy.
Camp Carpe Diem provides an unforgettable experience for people with epilepsy, as you realize you are not alone in dealing with the disorder. At the age of fifteen I was diagnosed with epilepsy, and at that time I would have done anything to meet another person my age dealing with the same challenges and struggles as me. This year I was a counselor in the teen girls cabin. I loved having the opportunity to share my story with the girls, and without Camp Carpe Diem I never would have been able to do that.
It can be hard with epilepsy to participate in any activities involving water. Doctors drill into your head that you should never swim because of the risk of having a seizure. At the pool there were six nurses and three lifeguards, so the girls were able to swim without any fear. For many of the girls that will be the only time this summer that they will be able to swim, and the joy on their faces cannot be put into words. This is just one example of the freedom the girls were able to feel in different activities throughout the week.
One of the girls in my cabin pulled me aside one day and asked me “Miss Jill, how did you do it?” She was referring to how I was able to graduate from college without epilepsy holding me back. This was the hardest part of the week for me and required the most strength in me to answer. I told her that even though we have epilepsy, we choose if we let epilepsy have us. We talked about all the different activities we had done over the week, and we decided to compare our epilepsy to climbing the rock wall. For many of the campers, this was the most challenging, but favorite activity of the week. It was not easy, but they had to remember to take it one step at a time. They did not all make to the top, but with practice and confidence we knew everyone could have made it. Just like with epilepsy, not every medication or treatment may work the first time, but the goal is to never give up and keep trying.
Saying “goodbye” to the girls at the end of the work was very hard. Camp allowed us to work together as a team in dealing with the challenges of epilepsy. We all wished camp could go on forever! Epilepsy is a very challenging disorder, but Camp Carpe Diem brings together people with epilepsy of all ages, races and backgrounds and reminds us that we are not alone. I can’t wait for next year!
Check out photos from this year’s Camp Carpe Diem!
Participants in Camp Carpe Diem 2014 were treated to a Road Trip, enjoying new experiences, travels to exotic locations and a week filled with fun adventures. Upon arrival, campers received a passport to record all their travel memories and thoughts. They were then assisted by camp staff to their luxurious camp accommodations, which featured travel-themed welcoming banners. On opening night, everyone attended a meet and greet in their best “tacky tourist” attire. Each evening featured a different port of call, with daytimes devoted to such regular camp activities as swimming, arts and crafts, fishing, team sports, boating and sing-a-longs. Carpe Diem is designed to be as normal a camp as possible, but with the safeguards of full-time medical staff and a well-stocked medical cabin.
Amongst the many stops along the road were a luau/beach party in Hawaii, a street carnival in New Orleans, a talent show in the Big Apple and a dance party in Las Vegas. Among the comments heard from our travelers were “This trip has been a vacation from the daily challenges of epilepsy!”, “I liked the talent night the best, as we had fun planning our skit!” and the comment most frequently heard, “This is the one week of the year where I am not different from anyone else.”
We want to thank the staff of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, under the leadership of Camp Director Lauren Beaver for the excellent care provided to each camper. We also want to thank our wonderful counselors for their involvement in making this a very special week for their campers. All staff and counselors at Camp Carpe Diem are volunteers. Camp Carpe Diem is made possible by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Camp Twin Lakes, with financial support from the Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia. This year EFGA was able to send 52 children to Camp Carpe Diem on camp scholarships.
We would like to thank the following companies and organizations for their help in underwriting these scholarships:
Youth Service Fund, Rotary Club of Atlanta
The Hoyt Jolley Foundation
Gary Summers Camp Scholarship Fund
UCB, The Epilepsy Company
Lights, Camera, Action! Hooray for Carpe Diem!
This year Tinsel Town traveled to Twin Lakes as Camp Carpe Diem had a Hollywood theme. We have camp mascot and ace Hollywood reporter Julius Seizure Frog to report on the activities of the week:
From the day they arrived until the final Hollywood Gala, the 41 campers taking part in Camp Carpe Diem were treated as “stars of the show”. At registration, they had their glamour shots taken before they proceeded to their cabins, which featured decorations as realistic as any Hollywood set. As in any large production, they were assisted by a large supporting cast of dedicated counselors and a backstage crew of nurses, pharmacists, family life specialists and Twin Lakes Staff. Coordinating the show was Best Director nominee Claire Aikens.
The week did get off to a solemn note, as the entire camp gathered around the flagpole in a Memorial Day salute to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country. After the ceremony concluded, everyone returned to their cabins to prepare for a week of fun and friendship.
Daytime activities included swimming, music, team sports, boating, swimming, arts and crafts, fishing and discovery time. Each cabin also had periods set aside for cabin chats to help build self-esteem and encourage teamwork and sharing with each other about how to deal successfully with epilepsy/seizure disorders.
Each night of the week was devoted to a special activity linked to a movie theme. These included a “Blue Hawaii” luau and pool party, a Rock and Roll party that had everyone dancing “Footloose” and a red carpet gala on Thursday night (emceed by yours truly in a tux). The paparazzi was out in full force to capture the stars as they arrived at the awards ceremony. After dining on an exclusive meal, each star received an award for a special accomplishment they had achieved during camp. As the week closed, in true Hollywood tradition, each participant received their star on the Carpe Diem Walk of Fame.
The camp week was definitely a smash hit and everyone is looking forward to the sequel in summer 2014!
Gary Summers was a long time member of our Epilepsy Foundation of Georgia family serving on the board of directors. He was a constant presence at every EFGA event, helped to coordinate epilepsy presentations to federal employees through his workplace, the US Department of Labor, and served in a leadership role as our Treasurer for many years. Tragically, we lost Gary in January 2013 after a courageous multi-year battle with cancer. Prior to his death, the EFGA created the Gary Summers Camp Scholarship Fund in his honor, allowing Gary to know his name would continue to be associated with the Epilepsy Foundation’s work for years to come.
At the 2013 Annual Dinner, we were fortunate to have Gary’s family, his wife Carol and sons Russell and Stephen, join us for the inaugural awarding of the Gary Summers Camp Scholarship. This year’s recipient mirrors many facets of Gary. Like Gary, she is an athlete, participating in swimming, softball and soccer. Like Gary’s beloved Nittanny Lions, her school colors are dark blue. She also shares in his academic prowess, as she is taking AP courses at her school as a junior. Most importantly, like Gary, she is not ashamed of her epilepsy and does not hide from it. Each year she devotes her Facebook entries for the entire month of November (Epilepsy Month) to educating others about seizure disorders. She also serves on the affiliate’s Epilepsy Youth Advisory Council , and most recently represented Georgia at the Kids Speak Up conference in Washington, DC. The inaugural recipient of the Gary Summers Camp Scholarship is Taylor Bradish of Grovetown.