Where’d The Summer Camp Idea Come From?

(Summer camp interview cont’d)

If you had to guess, what do the residents think of camp?
Tricia: Just from going upstairs with the kid camps, you’ll hear ooh and ahh when they get into the room. The residents are so excited to see them. There was a resident here once that hadn’t spoken a single word since he was admitted – the nurses and staff didn’t think he could talk. Then, the first time a little boy came up and said hi – he replied with “Hi buddy, how are you”? and proceeded to have a chat with him. And then the kids left, and he didn’t speak again.

What has changed at camp?
T: The first summer we had 6 kids – and this week we had 65 campers over the 8 weeks of summer. It started at Cherry Ridge, and as it grew it turned into an all St. Ann’s activity with each campus involved.

Besides for the ease of having camp right at St. Ann’s – what is the benefit?
T: Aside from ease, I love that I get to have lunch with Gigi each day. I get to see what she’s doing. The kids get to spend time outside, stay active. It’s that delicate balance – we have such a unique opportunity that they get to spend some time with the residents inside, but then they are also kids… and they need to burn their energy playing games and running outside.

There’s also all the benefits that you can’t really measure – you can’t measure emotion like that, but to see residents face light up, and when the parents say things like “My daughter did this with a resident”!

Gigi is able to learn empathy, sympathy, and appreciation for elders, that doesn’t naturally organically happen in our lives now. Where were headed in the future here at St. Ann’s with our culture, it’s not natural to only live with all people your own age. So when you have kids in, it’s natural – community like, and it feels more like home. Even if you don’t know anyone, seeing kids running around makes it feel more like home.

Also, we know there’s a healthcare shortage, and most kids think that everyone who works at a nursing home is a nurse. This camp is a great way to expand this conception, and show all the different departments, and career opportunities. If 2 kids leave camp and want to pursue a healthcare field – then that’s an accomplishment.

Where did the idea for this Intergenerational Summer camp come from?
T:I was in grad school, and I had read an article about a place out west that had a vacation bible school at their local nursing home. And I thought “We can do that!” So I presented the idea to senior leadership, and they were in full support – and we went from there! Aside from having to clear a few things legally, everyone seemed excited and the process began right away. It’s was internal for the first 4 years – with Heather, Leah & I handing most of the activities, and this year we were able to hire a summer camp director (Ms. Taylor). Everyone in Life Enrichment still plays a huge part in summer camp.

How does this benefit staff?
T: As a staff member bringing my child here, I now know people who I didn’t know had kids. We’ll now talk throughout the year about how the summer campers are doing in school. It helps with team building, collaboration, and formatting relationships. Right now Gigi knows life enrichment, there are 3 kids who have a grandmother in the finance department, a dad in IT, 2 children of CNAs, food services – it’s great to hear them talk about “what does your dad do?”

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