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Living the Chai Life

Strategies for Coping with the Social and Emotional Challenges of Pediatric Illness

Two Questions To Ask Yourself About Summer Camp For Your Child

Two Questions To Ask Yourself About Summer Camp For Your Child

The right camp experience is the one that offers children fun, friendship, and a chance to enhance their social and emotional toolbox.

The right camp experience is the one that offers children fun, friendship, and a chance to enhance their social and emotional toolbox.


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While most parents of overnight campers are already thinking about trunks and sunscreen, there remains a group of moms and dads who are still on the fence about sleepaway camp. Many parents of children who are ill or disabled haven’t found the camp that meets their child’s needs.
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Rivkah Reichmann, the associate director of Camp Simcha Special, a camp for chronically ill and disabled children and teens in Glen Spey, NY, has counseled hundreds of parents since the camp was established in 2001. She asks parents two questions to help them decide on camping options.
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Can the child’s health and safety needs be met by the camp?

Clearly, this is the most important concern regardless of a child’s health status. Parents should ascertain that the camp’s facilities are appropriate. If the child needs a wheelchair or walker, there should be easy access to every building so that the child can participate in all aspects of camp life. As important, maintenance and cleanliness standards must be high. Parents should also check the medical program: is there staff who can deal with both day-to-day needs and emergencies? Does the camp have emergency procedures in place? What about medication? Injections? Does the camp feel confident that its medical staff can deal with your child’s health requirements? Do you?
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What about your child’s social and emotional needs?

Summer camp is about friends and fun, but it’s also about growth and self-enhancement. The best camp for your child is the one that will allow him or her to shine through friendships and new skills. When the choice is between a “normal” camp and one designed for children with special needs, parents should consider the child’s social life throughout the year. Children who have to work to keep up may do better in a camp where everyone is working at their pace.
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“Sometimes children with illnesses or disabilities are the only kids who are sick in school. They are labeled. They feel left out. They may have few friends. These children may do better in an environment of peers, where all the children are struggling with similar challenges,” said Mrs. Reichmann. “They learn to appreciate their own strengths and differences. They are no longer isolated. The ‘bump’ they get at camp may be enough to make a difference all year long.”

 

Baltimore Raven’s Jacoby Jones Throws a Lifeline to Cancer Patient

Baltimore Raven’s Jacoby Jones Throws a Lifeline to Cancer Patient

Football became too dangerous for Coby when he was diagnosed with cancer. Rather than let his football dreams die when he was told that he would have to stop playing in the league he loved, volunteers from Chai Lifeline, the international charity dedicated to helping sick children and their families, fulfilled his greatest dreams: playing with Baltimore Raven’s wide receiver Jacoby Jones.
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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones and cancer patient Coby get ready to toss the football at a game organized by volunteers for Chai Lifeline.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones and cancer patient Coby get ready to toss the football at a game organized by volunteers for Chai Lifeline.


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Jacoby and Coby played a competitive game with some of Coby’s best friends and Chai Lifeline volunteers. Coby wore his JONES jersey, and Jacoby Jones wore his custom-made (JA)COBY jersey.
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There’s no question that Jacoby Jones is a hero on and off the football field. But there’s no word on who won the football skirmish, which was played at Carroll Indoor Sports Center in Westminster, MD.

Getting Your Kids Into the Game

Getting Your Kids Into the Game

Most of us recognize Title IX as the shorthand for Federal regulations requiring schools to provide equal access to sports to women. But do you know that similar regulations mandate that children in schools that receive federal funding have equal opportunities to participate in all activities, including sports and extracurricular programs?
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 In theory, this means that schoolchildren can’t be left out because of physical or cognitive disabilities. In reality, inclusion takes understanding and work on the parts of families, schools, community sports leagues and sports facilities.  
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Sports and group activities are an important outlet for all children, regardless of health or abilities.

Sports and group activities are an important outlet for all children, regardless of health or abilities.

 
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Many times, children who are ill or who have disabilities end up on the sidelines simply because no one knows how to include them or because they fear that inclusion will be expensive, intrusive, or uncomfortable for healthy children. Sometimes, talking to coaches, teachers, and other parents can help ease the way for a disabled athlete. Be prepared to stand your ground, though. PGA pro Casey Martin, who suffers from a degenerative nerve disease, went all the way to the Supreme Court to assert his right to use a golf cart in tournaments.
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Remember that some sports activities are easier to integrate. Disabled athletes can use prosthetics during swim meets or hand cycles during bicycling events without impacting other children. Team sports require more cooperation, but isn’t what we’re trying to teach children when they play together? If you encounter resistance (and even Casey Martin’s pro-colleagues groused when he needed a golf cart), ask dissenters to remember that sports are supposed to be fun for children. It isn’t – and shouldn’t be – all about winning. Offer to speak to classes and teams about inclusion. Many times, the kids get it before their parents. They feel good about helping someone else feel like part of the group.
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If your child needs more assistance than your school or town can give, there are organizations that specialize in everything from adaptive skiing to therapeutic riding to running marathons.  Disabled Sports USA is a good place to start. The New York City Sports Commission lists NY State resources, including adaptive playgrounds; other states may have similar guides.

Physical activity promotes cardiovascular and physical strength and increases range of motion and physical activities. These are as important for sick children as healthy ones. Most important, mastery of a sport or activity (at any level) helps children feel good about themselves. The self-confidence and esteem will transfer to other areas of their lives. So encourage all children — healthy, ill, or disabled — to have fun!

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