Willie Stevenson recalls the drive from Baltimore to Columbia 15 years ago, shortly after her newborn daughter, Maya, was diagnosed with sickle cell beta thalassemia disease. The chronic symptoms of fatigue and anemia appeared during the eight-hour car ride and led Stevenson to Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
“We quickly fell in love with the hospital,” Stevenson said, noting how excited she was that it had the Child Life program. “Maya loved the playrooms on each floor. She would go in there and draw all the time.” Pediatric hematologist Carla Roberts, M.D., and the rest of the care team helped Maya through multiple acute chest pains and stomach issues, along with weekly blood work and check-ups.
It was during her time on the Sickle Cell Circle of Hope foundation that Stevenson met other families dealing with sickle cell, who introduced her to Camp Burnt Gin, a summer camp for children who have physical disabilities and chronic illnesses. Maya has attended camp every year since, this week being her last time as camper. Her favorite part? “Definitely the chicken rings game. Laser tag is a close second,” Stevenson said. Maya is considering becoming a counselor at the camp in the future.
Camp Burnt Gin allows children, teens and young adults the chance to participate in a variety of programs such as swimming, boating, fishing, arts and crafts, sports and even an optional overnight camping trip. Sessions begin in early June and are open for ages 7-25
For more information, visit the Camp Burnt Gin website.