Camp Okizu

I just got back from 9 days at a camp called Camp Okizu. I had such an amazing time! First of all,  have never gone to camp, even as a kid. My only frame of reference was from The Parent Trap with Lindsey Lohan.  Summer-Camp.jpg

A little background on Camp Okizu. It is located in Berry Creek, CA which is about an hour from Chico, CA.  Camp Okizu is an Oncology camp. They have weeks where kids who have or had cancer can attend, as well as weeks when siblings of those affected by cancer can attend. They also have family camps. There is always medical staff there to make sure the kids are getting their medication, and to assist with any situations that may arise. Every year there is a new theme. This year the theme was Superhero!

 

I went to Oncology week 1, so the population I worked with were kiddos who had cancer, or are currently going through treatment. The first two days were staff training days. There was about 40 of us counselors, and over the two days, we really got to get to know each other through playing games, and spending time during meals together. A lot of the counselors were either oncology campers themselves, or a sibling of a camper. There were also plenty of us who are interested in working with this population in our field. Because many of the counselors were campers themselves, Many of them know each other very well. They are all very welcoming to the new staff, and by the end of the 9 days you feel like you have known these people forever. It has been about a week since I’ve been home, and I am missing them all very much.

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Padfoot, Strawberry, Atari, Stat

In my cabin, I had 3 other counselors with me. Two of which were experienced, and one other who was new. To the 4 of us we had 7 girls between the ages of 9-12. The councelors all chose camp names instead of going by our given names. I chose the name Padfoot. (Points given to any of you who know what the name is in reference to.) We slept outside during the night, which was absolutely beautiful! I have never seen so many stars.

 

Our days were filled with tons of activities. As a cabin we got to do swimming, boating, arts & crafts, archery, fishing, hiking, etc. The kids also got to break off into Special Interest groups and do activities with other kids of various ages. During the week, meals were made special and unique by adding twists. We did a baseball lunch -the kids had to literally catch their hotdogs and chips, absolutely amazing lol!- we had meals outside with other cabins. We also had special events during the day – Mission in Metropolis – playing games to redeem for tickets, which the kids could turn in for a snow cone, or dunk a counselor.

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This is what the week looked like

This experience was absolutely exhausting, by the time I got home I was dead tired, I had a ton of mosquito bites, I needed a shower, and couldn’t wash my clothes fast enough. However, It was one of the most exciting and rewarding weeks I have had in a long time. I met so many amazing kids who openly shared their story with cancer, there was crying, laughter, and mourning the loved ones they have lost from cancer.

 

I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids, or co counselors to have had this experience with. I will absolutely be back next year for Oncology 1! If you live in the area, I strongly encourage you to check them out!

Camp Okizu Website

My plan for 2018

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I am a planner. I need checklists of things to do and things that are on my mind. With that being said, I of course have a plan for 2018. This will also give you an idea of what you can expect to see me writing about over the next year.

  • I want to look into becoming certified in Infant Massage. Babies in the NICU need soothing touch so I think this would be a great thing to build my resume with. I am looking into a couple different programs
  • I am signed up for my first intro to Child Life class through UCSB Extension. It begins at the beginning of Jan. They offer an online certificate in Child Life. I am starting with just the intro class because I am hoping to get into a grad program that offers child life.
  • I need to submit my grad school applications for Fall 2018.
    • University of Minnesota – I really really really want to get into this program. Send me positive vibes!
    • Arizona State University –  If I choose this route I need to take the remaining required Child Life classes through UCSB extention
      • Applied Behavior Analysis
      • Family and Human Development
      • Social Work – I like this route as well because I can always make a career change if I really want/need to. I would take the Child Life classes through UCSB to qualify for the exam. The tricky part is going to be finding an internship that will work for both social work and Child Life. Not sure if that is possible.
  • I want to begin volunteering at a new hospital, make new connections and just get a fresh start. I have already begun the process through UCSF Mission Bay, I am just waiting for the health clearance.
  • Apply for a Child Life practicum.

 

A little background on me

My journey began about 5 years ago in 2012 when a friend of mine was in school to become a Nurse Practitioner. She had to complete rounds in Child Life and mentioned it to me as something she believed I would be interested in. At first, I brushed it off…working with sick kids? That seemed terrifying and sad. At this point I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I know I wanted to work with kids, and I knew I wanted to be in a medical setting, but I did not want to be a doctor or NP. I played with the idea of entering the field of psychology, social work, teaching, opening my own in home daycare…so many thought of what I could do!

I eventually came back to the idea of Child Life and decided to start volunteering with my local children hospital. I began volunteering there in Feb 2013 trying out the different departments. I began with Art Cart in the Cancer Center where I worked with a child life specialist and set up art activities for the kids and their families in the waiting room. After that, I decided I wanted to try something else and was placed in the waiting room in the outpatient surgery unit. I was really only there for about a month. I had the hardest time navigating that unit. Lastly, I came across the Preschool Playroom, and that is where I would stay for the next few years.

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I loved working in the playroom. It was a playroom specifically for ages 0-3. At first I was volunteering directly with a Certified Child Life Specialist, and I loved her! After talking to her and picking her brain about what a Child Life Specialist does, I realized pursuing a career as a Child Life Specialist was exactly what I wanted to do and I was exactly where I needed to be in order to do that.

The hospital ended up changing things around, and instead of CCLS’s running the playrooms they hired Playroom Coordinators. This was a bummer for me because I really wanted to work alongside a CCLS. I think I went through a total of 3 or 4 playroom coordinators before one of them stuck. I ended up taking a break from volunteering because school became a bit hectic. I went back to volunteering about 6 months later and the woman who was my co volunteer 6 months prior ended up being hired as a Playroom Coordinator. I thought this was awesome! I was so excited because I thought to myself, “This could be my next step! I can get a job as a playroom coordinator”. However, that wasn’t in the cards for me.

After I applied for a position, no one was giving me a call back regarding my application and I became frustrated. Eventually my supervisor put in a good word for me and I got an interview. The interview didn’t go great, it was very awkward and really felt like they were doing it to check me off their list. I decided to move on from the idea of getting a job at this hospital. I hoped they would have more invested in me, having been a loyal volunteer for 4 years. I wasn’t getting the help or guidance in the Child Life field, so I decided to move on, which turns out was for the best!

I have been working for a sports medicine office for about 5 1/2 years as an assistant and I decided it was time to move on from there too – needless to say 2017 has been filled with a ton of changes.

I found an awesome job working with a small company as a behavior specialist. It is new, it is hard, and I wouldn’t call it my dream job, but it is a step in the right direction and I am learning so much! I am very excited to begin this new journey.