July 3, 2018

Patients and their families enjoyed a summer camp in the hospital for two weeks in June, when Camp For All 2U was brought to Texas Children’s Hospital’s Medical Center and West Campuses.

Camp for All 2U is a unique, barrier-free camp that brings the same eventful camping experience to patients and their siblings. Many patients may have missed out on those valuable experiences because they are in the hospital.

The program transformed areas of the hospital into camp spaces providing patients, who may not get the experience of camp outside of the hospital, the opportunity to enjoy a variety of games and activities. With a different theme each day, camp activities included archery, canoeing, arts and crafts and much more.

“So many kids look forward to summer camps each year,” said Child Life Specialist Sarah Herbek, who collaborated with Camp For All 2U to bring the experience to Texas Children’s. “It’s a time to step outside of their comfort zone, try new things, make new friends and create lifelong memories.”

Camp For All 2U at West Campus was an expansion of the Medical Center Campus event and generously funded by the Wood Group. After returning for the second consecutive year, Child Life Specialist Riley Hammond said that it was easier to prepare this year and patients and families were eager for the event to begin.

“The kids are incredibly engaged and excited,” said Hammond. “It is so great to hear all of the singing and laughter; the hospital is filled with lots of joy while they are here.”

View photos from Camp For All 2U below.

Camp For All is for inpatients, as well as outpatient kids, whose parents may struggle with finding group experiences for their child with special needs or just need some time to themselves.

“They are getting a chance for respite,” said Hammond. “Here at camp, the Camp For All 2U staff is specially trained to work with children of all abilities and we have hospital staff and volunteers that are trained to assist as well.”

Although there is a pre-registration process, patients are more than welcome to join in on the fun if they happen to come across the camp activities. According to Herbek, at Main Campus, a mother passed by and requested information about Camp for All 2U program; but initially assumed her child could not participate since he was not in a wheelchair.

“After finding out that he could not only participate in Camp for All 2U, but he was also eligible to attend overnight camp at Camp For All’s campsite in Burton, she was in tears,” said Herbek. “She was genuinely surprised that we would be able to adapt camp activities to meet her son’s needs. That is what makes this week of Camp for All 2U so special. It is truly meant ‘For All.’ Our goal is to show kids of any ability what they can do, not what they can’t do.”

For more information about Camp For All, visit http://www.campforall.org/.

May 18, 2016

51816camppumpitup640Themed “Dragons and Dinosaurs” and packed with fun activities such as horseback riding, cast fishing and canoeing, Camp Pump-It-Up hosted 139 campers this year at Camp for All in Burton, Texas.

Volunteers from Mended Little Hearts of Houston managed the craft in the Art Barn and every camper left with their own hand-made dinosaur hat. One of the event’s highlights was the Wishboat ceremony, held by the lakeside. Each cabin of campers went before the camp and read off their wishes for the future. There were a lot of wishes for a world without bullying or sadness, but many campers simply wished for a normal life apart from their heart disease. Brothers and sisters wished away their siblings medical treatments and hospital stays. There were also were many wishes for Camp Pump-It-Up to never end.

Camp Pump-It-Up is a camp specifically designed for children and teenagers who have been affected by congenital heart defects. Every April, around 125 Texas Children’s patients and their siblings spend a weekend at the Camp For All campgrounds in Burton, Texas, fishing, riding horses, dancing and zip-lining with other kids who have a similar diagnosis. This location offers a unique and barrier-free camp opportunity that allows kids to be kids, despite their physical limitations or medical situation. Many of the children who attend Camp Pump-It-Up are unable to attend other summer camps because of their medical complexity.

This special weekend allows children to meet other kids who may have shared similar experiences. Often, children find strength from sharing their experiences of hospitalizations, taking medication and having surgeries. This camp provides them with a sense of normalcy by allowing them the opportunity to do camp activities like any other kid.

Camp Pump-It-Up is staffed by a large group of Texas Children’s employees, mostly from the Heart Center, as well as volunteers. There were 55 volunteers at this year’s campus, 33 of which were Texas Children’s Employees.

To read more about Camp Pump-It-Up, click here.

August 5, 2014


It was off to camp for several members of Texas Children’s pediatric neurology team and their patients. They made the trek to Camp For All, a beautiful, barrier-free recreational facility in Burton that helps children with special needs experience the thrill of camping and nature, just like normal kids their age.

Each summer, Camp For All hosts Camp Spike ‘n’ Wave, a weeklong camping expedition for children and teens with epileptic seizures. They build new friendships, unleash their independent, adventurous spirit, and focus less on their disability.

“We don’t want their medical condition to completely define who they are,” said Dr. Gary Clark, the camp’s lead physician and chief of Neurology and developmental neuroscience at Texas Children’s. “Wheelchair bound or not, every child can accomplish just about anything they set their minds to.”

Unlike traditional camps, Camp For All has no barriers. The entire 100,000 square foot facility – including cabins, bathrooms, showers, and sidewalks – are completely wheelchair accessible. The sidewalks are wide enough to accommodate side-by-side wheelchairs. And, every child is able to participate in all activities, regardless of the severity of their disability. If a wheelchair bound child wants to canoe, the child is placed in a sling and lowered into the canoe with a crane so they can explore nature on the water, just like their able-bodied peers.

“I will never forget how one of our wheelchair bound patients got to go on the big swing, which is essentially a big zipline,” said Sterling Myers, a camp volunteer and pediatric neurology nurse at Texas Children’s. “It made me smile to see the campers cheer each other on at every activity and boost each other’s self-esteem.”

More than 120 children with epilepsy participated in adrenaline-pumping activities like rockwall climbing, zip lining, horseback riding, rope courses, archery, biking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, karaoke, and arts and crafts.

8614Campinside640“It was great to see their fearlessness,” said Dr. Shannon Dicarlo, a pediatric neurology physician and former fellow at Texas Children’s. “They didn’t let their epilepsy get in the way of going about their lives, making friends, and having fun.”

Behind the scenes, our Texas Children’s medical team made sure the kids received superior care away from home. Every child at camp required medication for their seizures. Texas Children’s pharmacists filled and labeled prescriptions onsite according to the patients’ electronic medicine administration record generated at the hospital.

“When you think about it, we operated a mobile hospital right here at the campground,” said Clark. “It’s all about meeting our children’s needs.”

Camp Spike “n” Wave provides unique training opportunities for fellows to observe how their clinical decisions can impact their patients. It’s not every day that physicians see patients have seizures or struggle to swallow a fistful of pills. When these happen, highly trained camp counselors, along with Texas Children’s physicians and nurses, spring into action.

“This year, we trained a 6-year-old how to swallow pills,” said Dr. Geetanjali Rathore, a pediatric neurology fellow at Texas Children’s. “He shed a few tears the first time, but by the end of the week, he became a champ at swallowing pills.”

Camps, like Camp Spike ‘n’ Wave, wouldn’t be possible without the diligent efforts of Texas Children’s own, Dr. Robert Zeller, chief of the Blue Bird Circle Clinic, who collaborated tirelessly with other physicians and organizations to create Camp For All in 1993.

“I had a patient with epilepsy who couldn’t go to camp because camps wouldn’t accept children with this condition,” said Zeller. “This prompted me to develop a camp for disabled children who can discover life without barriers. It’s my way of giving back to my patients.”