Camp Oki: An Amazing Place for Special Kids

Camp Oki is a very unique and amazing place. My youngest daughter attended for many years and always had a fantastic time.

What makes Camp Oki so special camp is that it’s for kids with congenital heart defects. In many cases the only camp that a lot of its campers can attend for medical reasons.

Camp Oki

For Emily, it is the only time all year that other kids don’t stare unknowingly at her chest scar. Or ask stupid questions about why she can’t participate in a particular activity because she has to take medication that thins her blood.

Camp Oki is run entirely by  Doctors and Nurses from the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto, Canada. It is a place where children of many ages get to be regular kids and do normal kid things up in the beautiful Muskoka Region of Canada.

Dr Joel Kirsh and Dr Beth Stephenson started the camp in 2004 as a weekend-long program. Then it expanded into a week-long camp through generous donations such as staff support from The Labatt Family Heart Centre and organisational support from Sick Kids Foundation.  Dr Kirsh and Dr Stephenson have of course attended camp themselves and enjoyed seeing a lot of their patients having fun in beautiful northern Canada.

Camp Oki’s Waterfront

The activities available at Camp Oki are like activities offered at all the best Camps. Numerous water activities, sports, a rock climbing wall, zip line, games, crafts, campfires, and talent shows are just some examples.

But also, of course, there is the Medication Shed and Nurse, who is in charge of making sure that all the campers get their medications every day as required.  This combination of play and medical care for kids with heart conditions are only found here at Camp Oki.

Camp Oki’s Waterfront in the early morning

The greatest thing that you will find at Camp Oki is the laughter and smiles along with the linked arms of new friendships. The squeals of delight coming from trying something new and the proud walk that comes with a feeling of freedom.  Freedom from Doctor’s appointments, medical tests, people’s probing questions and life’s limitations when you have a heart condition.

An evening bonfire at Camp Oki

I feel as if no matter what I write I can’t possibly explain all the reasons that Camp Oki is an extraordinary place. With all of the incredible staff and the tremendous impact, it has on all of its campers who look forward to it year-long. If I could, I would personally give everyone involved a special hug and thank you.

I would also save a big hug for one particular person who I have had the pleasure to interact with over the years while getting Emily set up to go camping. This individual is Program Co-Ordinator Rachael Baker, who, no matter how insane things always get, still manages to stay calm, organised, and supportive.

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