In Their Words: Kids Explain Juvenile Arthritis

Each summer, my husband and I volunteer, pack our T-shirts, shorts, hats and bug spray and head to Lapeer, Michigan for Camp Dakota, a week-long summer camp for kids and teens with juvenile arthritis. You see, the Arthritis Foundation's Camp Dakota holds such a special place in our family’s hearts. My son, who has psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, attended camp for the first time when he was seven years old. Since then, he’s been back every year except one. He’s now 20, and he still finds his way back to camp as a counselor and cabin leader. I think it will always be his home away from home.

Pain is pain

Though not specifically for juvenile psoriatic arthritis, you can always find a handful of campers each year with this diagnosis. Many campers don’t know the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. They just know that Camp Dakota is a place where they can all feel like they belong – a place where they can make friends and connect with others who understand that juvenile arthritis is more than just achy joints, no matter what type of arthritis they have.

What Arthritis means to them

Like other traditional summer camps, Camp Dakota has swimming, boating, campfires, songs and silliness. But Camp Dakota also aims to give the children an outlet to express their hopes and dreams, as well as frustrations, while living with the pain of juvenile arthritis.

One of the activities this past summer was to have the campers write on an index card what arthritis means to them. I still tear up each year when I look back at the photos and see their faces (some are as young as 6!) and know there is no cure for their pain. This video highlights some of their messages.

Camp volunteers

Even if you don’t have a child with juvenile arthritis, volunteering at a juvenile arthritis camp can be a very rewarding experience. Camp Dakota just one of many juvenile arthritis camps throughout the United States hosted by the Arthritis Foundation. Chances are, if you live in the U.S., there’s a camp in your state. Visit the Arthritis Foundation's camp registration page for more information.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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