Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Goes On At Camp Anyway - Volunteer Prep

I get asked a lot about what happens at stroke camp. People want to know what we do there. So I thought I’d spend a little time and try to give you a flavor of the things that go on at a typical camp, if there is such a thing as a typical camp.

I want to mention right now that even though we have the word camp in our name we are not sleeping out in tents. So, I guess you could call it luxury camping.  The accommodations we strive to get for the campers are handicap accessible and are what you'd expect from a motel room. Some camps have cabins, some are in lodges, and some have even been in hotels.  Each survivor/caregiver couple has their own private room with a bathroom. We even carry some equipment such as grab bars and toilet seat boosters, if needed, to make rooms more handicap friendly. We also carry an extra wheel chair in case one of those is needed. When you make reservations from home with us we provide a form where you can list any other special needs and we will make sure they are taken care of.

And in those cases where the rooms are not adjoining the activity areas, we provide transportation via golf carts to get you to and from the fun.

For the campers, the camps usually run from 2pm Friday to noon Sunday. On a couple of occasions we have had a four day camp, but that’s not very common.

Of course, before the campers begin arriving on site, the staff and volunteers must arrive much earlier for orientation and to set up decorations and banners, signs pointing to the camp, the registration table, tables for all the activities and crafts, set up instruments for the drum circle, and make sure all the sleeping accommodations and assignments are in proper order and the weekend’s meals are scheduled as planned.

Some volunteers are involved even earlier than that because back at base, in Peoria, Illinois, activity event personnel such as the manicurists, massage therapists, and educational speakers such as doctors and other experts have to be lined up, the craft supplies have to be replenished after the previous camp, the camp van has to be loaded at least a day in advance (and this is a miracle in and of itself to pack three days of camp items in one van), then the van has to be driven to the camp site.

Remember we are headquartered in Peoria, so when we have a camp in Miami or Phoenix, for instance, someone has to drive the van to that location, plus a few local, experienced staff members assigned to coordinate the camp on-site, have to make travel arrangements to the camp destination. We’ve even had situations where the van must be packed for two camps. Case in point, the van needed to be packed and driven to Odessa, Texas for a camp there and then driven on to Phoenix for a camp there the following weekend. We’ve also  had two  camps  going  on  the  same  weekend. So you can begin to appreciate our future challenges as we are planning 25 camps a year. 


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Official Opening of the Blog and What We're All About

Welcome to the official opening of our new blog. 

For best results, and to get everything on the screen without having to scroll left and right, set your computer's screen resolution to 1280x720 or greater. You should be able to see six birds in flight at the top right of the blog page.

We began work on it at the end of 2011 and as you can see there are a few "test" articles on it already. We will be adding new articles frequently so be sure to check back here to see what we have to say. If you would like to be a blog contributor and write an article for us please use the "Contact Us" link at the left of your screen to let us know and we'll help you with that.

Sometime within the week we will begin a series of articles describing what goes on at our camps over a typical weekend. For those of you who have attended a camp it will be common knowledge but we welcome your input. If you know of anyone who might be interested in camp you can direct them to this series to get an idea of what to expect. 

You will notice that at the bottom of each article there is a place to make comments. Please feel free to do so. There is also a link at the left of your screen titled "How To Use This Blog" that will explain in detail how to make a comment if you can't figure it out.

We welcome any input. If you have any questions you may ask them freely here in the comments section following each blog post and we will reply as quickly as we can. We will have someone on the staff assigned to monitor the blog daily in order to respond to any questions or comments.  

I am hoping that, through this blog, we will reach an audience that wouldn't be reached through our main web page (see link on left side of screen) or our new Facebook page. Also, while you may see quotes from the bible and other resources every now and then, we are not a religious organization and we accept people of all faiths at our camps. I have taken the following from our main web page at and reproduced it here because it so accurately and clearly describes what we are really about. I would like to repeat what Jim Baranski said, quoted below, by saying that one of our major goals is to restore dignity to stroke survivors and their families. Here is what I took from our main web site to present to you today:

Stroke camp is exactly what the doctor ordered for survivors and caregivers. Rediscovering the simple joys of life is what Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp is all about. We get you out of your ruts or routines and treat the body, mind and soul to relaxation, laughter, music, companionship, sharing, tips, hands-on activities, and much more. We especially challenge that most vital muscle within you, your brain! And we guarantee you'll never feel better!

Stroke survivors and caregivers need a break from the stress of everyday life. They even need a break from each other! After providing stroke camps for hundreds of individuals since 2004, we KNOW strokes. We know that survivors need to engage with other survivors in more than an hour support group meeting once a month. Caregivers need the same outlet. Our three-day weekend camps blend all the essential ingredients of what "normal" folks enjoy with an abundance of pampering, compassion, friendship, smiles, patience and an extra helping hand when needed.

It's all about being yourself and embracing life again when stroke works overtime...

"If a tree is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail. . . Job 14:7 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I also included the quote that is on our web site from Jim Baranski, CEO/Executive Director,National Stroke Association  as follows :

"Among the many challenges stroke survivors face, restoring dignity for themselves and their families is often a most difficult journey... 'Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp' stands ready to help with those first important steps."

Jim Baranski, CEO/Executive Director
National Stroke Association

Well said Mr. Baranski. So, I invite you survivors and caregivers to attend one of our camps and you will see that we are up to that challenge. We have conducted over 50 camps since 2004 so we must be doing it right.

Check back with us Monday (Jan 30) when we will start a four article series describing what goes on at a typical camp each day.

Thank you for joining us,
- Your staff and friends at Retreat and Refresh Stroke Camp

Please feel free to post any comments or questions by clicking on the red word Comment following this article. If you have any questions or comments about anything that you would like to share with us please feel free to do so on any of our articles. Don't worry about being off topic. Any question or comment is welcome on any of the article's comments section.