The life-changing gift of summer camp for kids with a serious illness

CARNATION -- In the heart of the Snoqualmie Valley, Camp Korey on Carnation Farm is the place hundreds of young campers come to in order to experience childhood the way it was intended.

For all eight one-week sessions, kids with varying medical challenges and illnesses are treated just like kids are at any other summer camp; and the results are life-changing.

Ty spent nine years as a camper here at Camp Korey. "Like many of the campers here, I had multiple surgeries, I've been to the hospital multiple times at (Seattle) Children's. And it was so awesome because I got to meet a lot of people with the common things I've faced throughout my life."

The high school junior is now here as part of the BLOCK (Building Leaders Out of Camp Korey) program. It gives former campers like Ty the chance to come back as a mentor, while also learning leadership skills.

"It feels really good because I've grown from this camp, I've learned a lot from this camp; I've gotten a lot of my life lessons from this camp, so to give back is like a blessing to me," Ty says.

Dr. Anne Slater is the medical director; she and her team of fellow doctors, nurses and volunteers are here to keep the kids healthy and safe- but in a way that lets campers focus on camp. "So they do all of their activities, and we bring their medications to them. We bring their treatments to them, so they can feel like a kid instead of a kid with an illness."

Activities vary throughout the week, but just on the day we visited, there was horseback riding, boating, fishing ("kiss and release!"), and pizza. The pizza, by the way, had toppings kids could pick themselves from the camp's garden- another favorite spot that teaches kids how to grow veggies, plants and more.

As a residential summer camp, kids are often experiencing their first taste of independence for the week. It can be equally rewarding for parents. "You just get this whole change in these children at the end," Dr. Slater says, "And the parents are not only thankful that their kids are in a different place, but they got a break for a week, which I think is another wonderful thing that we provide."

Camp Korey is entirely free for families and their campers to participate in, thanks to donations from people and businesses in the community. They accept applications from January through June, and also do family weekends throughout the year, as well as programs for kids in the hospital. To apply, or to find opportunities to volunteer or donate, click HERE.