When The Kids Can't Go To Camp, Double H Ranch Brings Camp to the Kids
Double H Ranch is most well-known as a SeriousFun camp in Lake Luzerne that is tailored to children with serious illnesses. But they don't stop there. In addition to the amazing summer camp experience, this non-profit organization is committed to bringing the fun of camp to kids, even when they are hospitalized. And, one of their prime partnering hospitals is right in our own backyard — the Bernard & Millie Duker Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center.
We sat down for a chat with Hospital Outreach Director Carly Weller to learn all about how Double H Ranch brings beloved camp activities to kids in medical settings. Keep reading to find out why this rewarding program is so beneficial for both the kids and their parents.
Camp Crafts & Group Activities in a Medical Setting
Every summer, children with serious illnesses come together at Double H Ranch's incredible all-inclusive camp, where they learn to swim, fish, climb ropes, and engage in more activities they wouldn't otherwise be able to do. But what happens when a child is receiving treatments, or has an extended stay in the hospital? Double H is there, too!
Their Hospital Outreach Program, also known as Camp On-The-Go, brings camp to kids in medical settings through bedside visits and playroom visits. Volunteers wheel carts carrying various activities from room to room bringing the fun to the kids. With a playroom visit, there is a group activity for several children to participate in together.
"A huge priority for me, in this role, is to recreate camp activities as best as I can with the limitations of being in the hospital," Weller told us. "For example, fishing and boating is a camp favorite during summer, so I may facilitate a duct tape boat building and 'lake in a bottle' as an activity.'"
Weller finds that hospitals are increasingly looking for opportunities where kids can interact with their peers, as this is something kids will miss out on when hospitalized. Playroom visits are crucial to foster that social interaction all children need.
Hope, Happiness & Smiles for Kids and Parents
Camp On-The-Go provides more than just an activity children can engage in to pass the time while they're receiving treatment. This unique program creates lasting memories for children and their parents, whose days might otherwise be consumed by treatments, tests, and the tediousness of the hospital setting.
Seeing the smiles on the kids and parents is invaluable, especially when you're talking about a child who is facing illness or trauma. For a brief time, they get to just be a kid. Weller believes that these smiles are part of the fabric of Double H Ranch, and seeing them happen in a hospital setting is "true camp magic."
Director of Operations at Double H Ranch Jacqui Royael described the joy of seeing a dad's face brighten as his son squealed in delight catching fish after fish with magnet fishing. "While we may not have been at camp fishing, the joy of camp was brought to the hospital playroom that day," she said. "It gives a child that reason to smile in a place that can sometimes be very scary."
And it's not just about the kids. Weller explains, "As important as it is for a child to have that moment of freedom, it is just as important for a parent to be able to see their child light up in that way."
The Participating Hospitals & Forces Behind Camp On-The-Go
The Bernard & Millie Duker Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center is Double H Ranch's main partnering hospital. Volunteers come four or five times a month to their inpatient units and the Melodies Center for Hematology and Oncology.
When they're not visiting Albany Med, Camp On-The-Go travels to other hospitals, including but not limited to: Children's Hospital at Dartmouth, Cohen Children's Medical Center, Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong Memorial, and Golisano Children's Hospital at Upstate Medical.
Weller, who heads up the program, could not be more of an ideal fit. She brings experience as a volunteer, counselor, and unit leader at Double H Ranch; she is also a Child Life Specialist. Professionals in this field focus on the psychosocial care of children, and often act as an advocate for the child, facilitating coping strategies.
Besides Weller, Double H Ranch volunteers are the movers and shakers behind the Camp On-The-Go. Without them, Double H wouldn’t be able to spread their reach to these hospitals.