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June 26, 2014 - Medical Students Volunteer at Camp Rap-A-Hope
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Pictured (from left to right): Allen Lockhart (Class of 2017), Cory McGee (Class of 2017), William Harvey (Class of 2017), Madelyn King (Class of 2016), Abby Weems (Class of 2015) and Daniel Salisbury (Class of 2015). 

Six medical students at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently volunteered at Camp Rap-A-Hope, a week-long summer camp at Camp Grace in Mobile, Ala. The camp is designed to serve children between the ages of 7 and 17 who have or have ever had cancer.

Each year, children across the region enjoy a typical summer camp environment that includes swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, arts and crafts and many other activities.

This was USA medical student Daniel Salisbury’s fifth summer to volunteer as a camp counselor.

One of his favorite aspects of Camp Rap-A-Hope is experiencing a "normal" day with the campers. “Seeing campers – both healthy and sick – enjoy these activities and challenge themselves to try new things allows a person to adopt a new perspective when treating patients in a hospital setting,” Salisbury said. “It helps care providers in maintaining a more patient-centered treatment plan by reinforcing the fact that patients have normal lives outside of the hospital, and it is the care provider's job to do what is best for the patient in getting them back to their normal life.”

As a volunteer counselor, Salisbury coordinates the activities for a cabin of boys ages seven to 11 – the youngest group. “Each year offers plenty of funny stories, eye opening experiences and emotionally moving moments that we will never forget,” he said.

This year, one of Salisbury’s favorite moments was having a video conference with a camper that was unable to make it to camp due to treatment. “This year's camp theme was ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors, Camp!,’ so one of our campers played the rock-paper-scissors game with the boy who was unable to make it.”

Another camper was unable to swim due to his blood counts. “After he visited the doctor during the week, he was told he could finally swim on his last day at camp,” Salisbury said. “He stayed in the lake for three hours before having to undergo his next chemotherapy treatment the next day.”

Third-year medical student Abby Weems has been a counselor at Camp Rap-A-Hope for seven years and has known about the camp since she was a child. Her cousin, who is a year older than her, was diagnosed with leukemia at six years old. “Every summer she left my sister and I for a week to attend this amazing camp,” Weems said. 

Weems’ cousin is now in remission and graduated from camp 10 years ago. “She can still tell you about the different themes and activities and people she met,” Weems said.

Community service is important in the first two years of medical school, according to Weems. “It's not only healthy to get out and interact with others, but it also reminds you that you aren't learning everything in vain – someday you will be applying your education to those in the community,” she said. “It's good to be reminded of all of the social aspects that play a role in a person's health and well-being.”

“As counselors, we participate in all of the activities with the campers and just try to make the week as fun as it can be for them,” she added.

Camp Rap-A-Hope hosts several events open for volunteer opportunities throughout the year. For more information, visit www.camprapahope.org.

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