MAPLE LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) – Arthritis is most commonly associated with adults, but juvenile arthritis also impacts thousands of children in the United States.
The Arthritis Foundation estimates 1 in 250 children has juvenile arthritis in the U.S. This week, a camp that is located about one hour west of the Twin Cities is giving children with juvenile arthritis a chance to spend time with others who share the disease. The camp is called Camp Cambria.
It is the only camp designed to fit the specific needs of children living with the disease in Minnesota. Mary Vaughan, 15 from Hastings, says she feels lucky to meet people who can really understand her life.
“I’ve met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known and I’ve met some of my best friends here,” Vaughan said.
The reality for the 74 camp kids hanging out on Cedar Lake is that they sometimes cannot keep up with their friends at home. Gwynn Larson, 14 from Waverly, Minn., says she can relate to people at camp on a different level but wishes everyone would treat kids battling diseases the same as other kids.
“We can do almost everything you can do so don’t treat us differently,” Larson said.
Arthritis Foundation camp leader Liz Atchison says the people with the disease can go into remission, but others deal with the pain and discomfort for years.
“We have kids who are maybe newly diagnosed, kids that were maybe diagnosed at 18 months and are now 17, kids who are on a lot of medication and kids who maybe are not taking any at this current time,” Atchison said.
The Arthritis Foundation holds close to 50 camps like this one across the country, but they are not all free. Minnesota-based Cambria completely sponsors this camp, which costs about $2,000 per child.
“It makes them feel special, it makes them feel what they’re feeling emotionally and physically is ok and other people are feeling it too,” Atchison said.
This was the camp’s second year in Maple Lake, Minn. Next year, they hope to grow the Camp Cambria to 120 kids. They accept kids ages 8 to 17.