Lauren Petty uses an electric wheelchair because of balance issues. She has urinary and bowel incontinence. She’s had a g-tube for the last two years and recently got a G-J tube. She has dysautonomia. She needs medications throughout the day. Lauren has mitochondrial disease along with progressive brain atrophy and those are just some of her symptoms. “It’s a lot for a typical camp to monitor,” her parents, Jennifer and Bryan, say.
But despite all this, Lauren is a regular summer camper at Victory Junction’s Mito sessions! Thanks to Victory Junction’s wonderful medical staff and counselors, Lauren can forget about Mito for a week and just be a kid!
“When she’s at summer camp, she doesn’t feel left out or different,” says Jennifer after last year’s camp session. “At school, she has a one-on-one aide but that singles her out. Kids look at her differently. When they go on field trips for school, she goes in a separate entrance … she constantly feels different.
“But at camp, she’s just another little girl. It makes her feel like a normal kid.”
Lauren, 10, has so many favorite activities that it’s hard for her to pin down just one or two. But if pressed, Lauren would choose the water park as her fave. “I like to go around the Lazy River,” she said. She also likes arts & crafts, because she’s creative, and archery.
Because the Randleman, NC, camp is accessible to everyone, there’s nothing Lauren feels she can’t do. “At school, there’s so much she can’t do,” Jennifer says. “At Victory Junction, that’s not an issue. Everyone does it all!
“What they do for these kids is just amazing,” the Burlington, NC, mom says.
“Victory Junction is the one place in the world where Lauren isn’t left out and where her needs and limitations make her part of the crowd instead of separating her from it,” says Jennifer. “It’s the one place she doesn’t feel hindered by her differences. It’s a place where she can meet other kids like herself and realize that she’s not alone.”
When the new school year starts and kids are talking about what they did over the summer, Lauren can chime in with stories similar to her classmates because she went to camp just like everyone else.
Even her siblings have gotten in on the action, attending Victory Junction’s Siblings Weekend in the past. Lauren’s oldest sister, Kayleigh, 13, is her biggest advocate. Kayleigh has done science projects on Mito and raised funds for a children’s hospital. Her other siblings are Madyson, 7, Charlie, 5, Ben, 4, and Josh, 3.
Lauren has attended camp for the last four years. The first year, Jennifer and Bryan were a little nervous about leaving her at camp. But their fears were soon assuaged after talking with the medical staff and counselors. “She was in good hands,” Jennifer says.
MitoAction has partnered with Victory Junction in an effort to make summer camp a possibility for every child who suffers from mitochondrial disease.
Victory Junction (victoryjunction.org) is part of the SeriousFun Network (www.seriousfunnetwork.org) of camps whose mission is “to create opportunities for children and their families to reach beyond serious illness and discover joy, confidence, and a new world of possibilities, always free of charge.”
The 2016 Mito session dates at Victory Junction are July 3-6; July 31-Aug. 3. Applications are now open at https://victoryjunction.campmanagement.com/enroll.
For more information on camps, please visit please visit please visit https://www.mitoaction.org/programs-support/support/mhcf/