Campership Changes Lives

My journey with The Painted Turtle began over a decade ago. As a fourteen-year-old girl finally bouncing back from being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I was the perfect candidate to become a camper. According to my doctor, The Painted Turtle was a new oasis created for children with life-threatening illnesses. As wonderful as it sounded, the idea seemed unreal; how were a bunch of kids with serious medical conditions supposed to have a normal summer camp experience?

When you are first diagnosed with an incurable genetic autoimmune illness, you are inundated with labels that doctors give you. You are your blood test results, your DNA, your medications, your clinical trials, and your prognosis. All I wanted to be at fourteen was a marine biologist/artist/rock star. So needless to say, ”feeling normal” was not an easy task, and I felt desperately alone.

Despite my doubts, I chose to attend a camp that I hoped would change how I looked at my disease. What I found instead was a camp that changed how I see the world.

Driving onto The Painted Turtle site was like driving into Wonderland. I entered as a curious, quiet girl but left a bit louder and a hell of a lot stronger. At Camp, I found more than a ropes course and horseback riding; I found friends, mentors, and a support system. With The Painted Turtle’s help, I was able to transition from fear and isolation to acceptance, independence, and self-love. Each year I attended Camp, my experience deepened the feeling that The Painted Turtle was my home.

After my first year of college, I transitioned into the role of volunteer, and it was then that I found my best self. Counselors are not only responsible for campers’ care, but they are also charged with ensuring their time at Camp is unlike anything they experience at home. At The Painted Turtle, everyone hears the word “yes” more than anywhere else.

Volunteering expanded my definition of empathy and compassion and I could not get enough. I was suddenly able to look behind the curtain and see the intentionality that goes into creating “camp magic.” I witnessed the immense effort to lessen the suffering of others and help them overcome adversity, and this finally showed me the silver lining of my illnesses. Because of my time at camp, I am who I am because of the values, courage, and leadership instilled in me.

Now a full-time staff member at The Painted Turtle, I am among thousands of campers who have gone on to have successful lives because our illnesses no longer define who we are or what we become. While we owe a lot of that to our parents and doctors, we owe just as much to people like you who have helped make The Painted Turtle possible.

Thank you for your continued dedication to campers like me. In a world that often tells children with serious medical conditions, “No, you can’t,” your support says, “Yes, you can!” – Eliot Dreiband

Your gift can be made in memory of a loved one or in honor of a birthday, anniversary or special occasion of a family member or friend. If your gift is a tribute to someone, please tell us the name of the individual you wish us to notify along with their address so that we can send them a card letting them know of your thoughtful gift. (The amount will not be mentioned.)

Camperships Keep Camp Free of Charge

Camp will always be free of charge. Campership gifts support the costs of food, housing, medical care, and of course fun for campers of all ages, and 100% of campership gifts directly benefit the campers and their families. To make a campership gift, click here.

Honor Someone Special

Did you know that your gift can be made in memory of a loved one or in honor of a birthday, anniversary or special occasion of a family member or friend?

If your gift is a tribute to someone, please include a note telling us the name of the individual you wish us to notify along with their address so that we can send them a card letting them know of your thoughtful gift. (The amount will not be mentioned.)

If you have questions about making a gift, please contact us at donate@thepaintedturtle.org or 310-451-1353.

The Painted Turtle is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization with Federal Tax ID# 95-4612481. All charitable contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. If you prefer to send your donation by mail, please address it to: Camperships at The Painted Turtle, 1300 4th Street, Suite 300, Santa Monica, CA 90401.