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!
The dates have been announced for the 2015 Camp Carpe Diem session, May 23-29, 2015. EFGA is proud to partner with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Camp Twin Lakes to provide this one of a kind experience for children with epilepsy and seizure disorders. This week long camp provides the opportunity for all to have access to this memorable and valuable experience.
EFGA provides camp scholarships to those in need, it is our goal that no child not be able to experience camp due to financial restraints. If you have any questions or need general information about camp you may contact Lloyd Brown, (404)527-7155.
CAMP CARPE DIEM REGISTRATION IS CLOSED AT THIS TIME.
Managed by the Civitan Club of Georgia, Camp Big Heart is appropriate for those persons who have a developmental disability in addition to their seizure disorder. Camp Big Heart holds two sessions.
Session One will be June 21st – 26th at Camp John Hope in Fort Valley, GA. The ages for this session are ages 7 to 28. Campers will be in cabins with their own age group and will participate in activities with the same group.
Session Two will be June 28th – July 3rd at Camp John Hope in Fort Valley, GA. The ages for this session are ages 26 and older.
EFGA will subsidize a major portion of the camp fee for each participant, please mark the Funding Source area of the application with EFGA’s information if you need financial assistance. We do ask that if you are able to provide any amount for your camper that you please include it with the application.
Questions concerning camp may be directed to Lloyd Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org or (404)527-7155.
CAMP BIG HEART REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED.
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
This marks the 5th year for Camp Carpe Diem, which is held in partnership with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. This camp will serve children ages 7 – 15, who have good control with their seizure meds. Camp Carpe Diem will run from May 25 – 30, 2014. Leaders in Training are past campers who are 16 and 17 are eligible to apply. EFGA will subsidize a major portion of the camp fee for each participant.
Camp registration for Carpe Diem is now closed. If you missed the opportunity to get your child signed up for the 2014 session, please check back in February 2015 for the 2015 dates or contact Lloyd Brown for more information.
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.