What started as a ground-breaking collaboration three years ago has turned into an award-winning program for two pediatric nurses at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
Angie West and Wanda Bass were among the six people who received UNCW’s Razor Walker award this year for their role in starting Camp Special Time, a weekend camp for special needs children of military families at Camp Lejeune. The award is presented to those who “walk the razor’s edge” while improving children’s lives and educational opportunities.
Three or four times a year, Camp Special Time offers children with special needs a weekend of activities while their parents enjoy a time of respite.
“Many of the children who attend camp cannot be left with a regular babysitter,” Bass said, “so camp offers the parents some badly needed personal time.”
Held on the base at Camp Lejeune, Camp Special Time began in April 2003 with nurses from NHRMC’s Pediatrics unit providing medical oversight and staff from the Marine Corps Community Services Child Development Center and Exceptional Family Member Program providing activities and programming.
Over the next several years, UNCW’s Nursing and Recreational Therapy programs and Cape Fear Community College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program joined the effort. Now, faculty and students from those programs alternate planning the activities for the camp weekends, and the nurses are allowed to focus on their specialty – providing medical care.
Attendance has also grown through the years. Twelve children attended the first camp; 30 attended the camp held in October this year. Their disabilities include problems such as speech and hearing impairments, autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and seizure disorder. But some of the children have rare health problems such as a faulty chromosome that appears three times rather than twice in the body’s cells, causing a host of medical problems including heart and respiratory problems, blindness, lack of muscle control, severe feeding problems and malformations of the brain, head and facial features.
A number of the children are confined to wheelchairs or have other assistive devices, including feeding tubes.
Dan Johnson, Associate Professor in UNCW’s Recreation Therapy program, is excited for his students to participate.
“This is a rare opportunity to be able to spend so much time in a relatively real-life situation with children with special needs,” he said
The Razor Walker Award was established by UNCW in 1993. It is considered one of North Carolina’s most prestigious service awards. As nurses who have dedicated their lives to caring for children and their families, West and Bass developed this program to serve an unmet need for military families who have special needs children.
For more information on outreach activities provided through New Hanover Regional Medical Center, go to www.nhhn.org/outreach.