Camp HOPE America is the leading, year-round camping and mentoring program in the country for children and teens impacted by domestic violence. Its mission is to give youth a brighter future by creating pathways to hope and healing. This program offers an environment where youth can feel safe, seen, heard, encouraged, and cared for. Camp HOPE Fort Worth is a local participant in the program and has conducted a camp for the past nine years. The week of camp is held at Carolina Creek Christian Camp in Huntsville, Texas. Dr. Ann L. Smith, an adjunct professor in Southwestern Adventist University’s (SWAU) Department of Nursing, has served as the camp nurse since the inception of Camp HOPE Fort Worth.
For the past two summers, four SWAU nursing students volunteered to go with Dr. Smith and put their knowledge into practice at Camp HOPE Fort Worth. This year, from June 5-10, 2022, Kelsie Downs, Aledxavier Lopez, Katlyn Lozano, and Diana Vieyra, who just finished their junior year of nursing at SWAU, ministered to 75 boys, girls, teenagers, and counselors there.
“From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, there was an element of surprise, not knowing what would present itself,” remembers Aledxavier. The week started with a training session to help the volunteers understand the goals of the camp experience and how the campers’ home lives might affect their emotional and mental health and behavior at Camp HOPE Fort Worth.
Upon arrival at Camp HOPE Fort Worth, Dr. Smith observed the SWAU nursing students as they conducted health screenings, asked the kids and their parents health questions, secured the camper’s medications, identified allergies, did lice checks, and as they communicated with the campers to obtain a sense of their emotional and mental wellbeing.
Each day the SWAU students accompanied the campers on their adventures as they went rock wall climbing, swimming, and canoeing, and as they participated in sports activities. “One example of how I used my nursing knowledge occurred during a soccer game,” explains Aledxavier. “A player from another camp, not Camp HOPE Fort Worth, began vomiting. I quickly approached him and asked him to go with me to the campsite infirmary. There I began my assessment, asking him specific questions and obtaining his vital signs. After consulting with Dr. Smith, we concluded that the child was experiencing mild dehydration. Our interventions included oral rehydration solution until the child urinated, and we rechecked the child’s vital signs every 15 minutes.”
“Our students made sure Camp HOPE campers were drinking before and after activities and at meals, and they stayed well hydrated. We had not a single heat injury among our campers. Not so in other groups,” Dr. Smith points out.
The students took care of all kinds of minor injuries throughout the day. At the day’s end, the students were part of a debriefing with the other camp staff. “They took our students’ suggestions very seriously,” says Dr. Smith. “Our students suggested that they take first-aid kits along with them to the different activities. Their suggestion was implemented, and they took care of things on the spot!”
While Camp HOPE Fort Worth is not affiliated with any faith tradition, Dr. Smith explains, “Our students really modeled for counselors and children what caring behavior looks like.”
“Being able to mingle with the kids of Camp HOPE was amazing!” says Kelsie Downs. “The kids talked about being grateful for even the smallest things. They were filled with joy, excitement, and hope! Being able to connect with them and hear their stories was my favorite part of the whole experience.”
For Diana Vieyra, “My experience at Camp HOPE was definitely unique,” she says. “I believe I gained so much more from it than I could have expected. I got to experience so many different personalities. I’m glad I got to connect with the campers, counselors, and staff throughout the week.”
“These students did an impressive job of living out the SWAU mission of knowledge, faith and service this summer at Camp HOPE,” says Dr. Smith.
If you are a SWAU junior nursing major, and you would like to inspire others at Camp HOPE Fort Worth next year using your knowledge, putting your faith into action, and serving others, contact Dr. Smith through SWAU’s Department of Nursing.
Dr. Ann Smith is Adjunct Professor for Child Health Nursing at Southwestern Adventist University, and Michelle Bergmann is a freelance writer for Southwestern Adventist University.