Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati will hold its 28th annual Camp Ytiliba [ya-TIL-eh-bah; “ability” spelled backward!], a very special week-long overnight camp for children being treated at the hospital for burns, other traumas or conditions. Camp takes place this year at Camp Ernst in Burlington, Kentucky, June 4–9.
The week gives these kids, aged 9–16, a chance to be around other children who understand their experience, to make new friends and take part in outdoor activities like horseback riding, fishing, swimming or just having fun. The camp is designed to help build self-esteem and confidence without worrying about their appearance, scrutiny or even bullying by others.
Cincinnati Shriners Hospital employees work at Camp Ytiliba, including staying with the children overnight. There is no cost to the children or their families.
On Tuesday, the boys and girls will be separated for activities, with girls having “pamper time,” courtesy of Paul Mitchell salons, plus University of Cincinnati cheerleaders and a professional photo shoot; while boys enjoy “man camp” with members of FC Cincinnati, martial arts demonstrations and even neck and bow tying instruction! On Wednesday, 4:30 p.m., the camp will hold an early 4th of July parade with food trucks; Shrine clowns and car units; fire trucks from the Burlington Fire Department; and members of Brother’s Keepers, a motorcycle club for firefighters that fundraise for the camp.
The junior counselor staff is made up of current patients aged 18 and up, and trained in SOAR, the peer-counseling program in which older patients and “graduates” help new and younger children through issues related to their injuries, including bullying.
Lauren Lind is a junior counselor spending her third and final summer at Camp Ytibila. She attended once as a camper before becoming a counselor. Lauren was burned over 40 percent of her body when she was 5 or 6; when in route to sell at her brothers’ football game, a large dispenser of hot chocolate tipped over into her car seat.
Lauren is now a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and beginning her final turn as junior counselor. “Kids might be missing fingers or toes, but no one makes fun; they aren’t out of place,” said Lauren, explaining why she volunteers. “I love seeing them do things they might otherwise not be able to do. Last year, one girl with no fingers climbed the rock wall; another who has lost both arms was able to ride a horse. People cheered; it’s rewarding for me to be a part of that.”