“Faces and Places” is a regular column written by Strategic Communications Editor Dave Scheiber highlighting those people, places and things that make All Children’s Hospital special. Video by Mollie Scheiber.
Kids Revel in Western Week Summer Camp at All Children's
Cowboy Gordie was hard at work on a recent morning at All Children’s Hospital, twirling a rope above his head in trick patterns just the way he did when he worked with TV’s original Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore, and on other vintage Hollywood sets.
But in truth, the octogenarian saddle man with the amazing lasso moves was the one getting roped in – by a roomful of young patients on the final day of a week-long, western summer camp.
While many children enjoy all kinds of outdoor camps over the break, that’s not always possible for the kids hospitalized at All Children’s. So with a new school year looming on the horizon, the Child Life Department once again swung into action to stage five days of summer-camp fun for hospital-bound children last week.
All corners of the Children’s Auditorium were decked out western style – complete with sepia-toned wanted posters (featuring the faces of the Child Life staff), areas for crafts and games, a small mechanical pony that little kids could pet and climb on, a replica of a stockade, special isolated tables for patients whose conditions put them at risk for infections, and popular country music tunes filling the air. The event was broadcast from a closed-circuit system into hospital rooms, so any child who couldn’t attend still could watch on TV.
As an added touch, there was even a “miner’s cart” that was brought to the hospital rooms each day for those who needed to stay in bed. Patients were told that miners in the auditorium had collected gold for them (well, gold-painted rocks sifted from inside a big box of sand). Room-bound kids could then trade the gold for special prizes, ensuring that everyone was involved.
“The kids here don’t get to go to summer camp, so instead we bring summer camp to them.”said Child Life Director Kristin Maier. “They’ve been fully engaged and all the activities have been carefully planned by our staff. We sat down a few months ago to start planning camp week – we just have a lot of creative people who envisioned this.”
The theme of one session was “campfire day,” with music therapist Kelly Tyrrell leading everyone in camp songs and kids making s’mores. There was a day that featured a trail mix bar and creating popsicle-stick craft frames to hold photos taken of the kids, and another where patients turned bendable foam pool noodles into horses decorated with plastic googly eyes and felt for hair.
Friday’s ho-down and roping show was organized by Child Life intern Rayna Tanis as her special project of the summer. “It’s very exciting,” she said. “I’m just so happy that it all came together – we have the music, the entertainment, the trick ropers. And they’re so great.”
Gordie Peer, who drove in from Okeechobee, was joined by a professional roper he trained himself, Mike Wooldridge of Naples. The two performers – located in an Internet search by Child Life Specialist Leah Frohnerath – shared the spotlight, treating the packed audience to numerous classic roping and twirling tricks. Their moves immediately caught the attention of 7-year-old Gianna. When Peer asked for a volunteer, she stood up out of her wheelchair and walked to the front of the room, where she managed to get the rope spinning with a helping hand from the old cowboy.
“The cowboys made me want to learn,” she said with a smile.
And the cowboys learned something themselves from the crowd of kids, many dealing with one form of adversity or another.
“They’re so special and we need to do special things for them,” said Wooldridge.
Creating an indoor western summer camp, capped off with some fancy rope twirling, did the trick just fine.