Camp for ill kids gets new permanent home - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Community Focus

Camp for ill kids gets new permanent home

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Posted: Monday, August 11, 2014 10:28 am

A camp for seriously ill kids has a new permanent home in Arizona, giving the organization the ability to host even more free events for kids who may not get to experience camp otherwise.

Camp Soaring Eagle hosts 24-hour medically supervised camp programs for seriously ill children. Recently the nonprofit was able to purchase a new camp location in Cornville. The organization is hoping having its own facility will allow them to serve many more campers.

“It’s our own place we can do our own thing with and make it personal,” said Tyler Torba, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and volunteer coordinator for Camp Soaring Eagle. “It also allows us to go from serving only 20 to 22 kids to serving way more children than that because of the capacity. Our goal is to serve 1,600 campers and family members this year.”

The camp has a relationship with Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa where most of their campers and medical volunteers come from. The programs are illness-specific and geared toward campers and families facing things such as: blood disorders, cancer, bowel diseases, respiratory diseases and Type 1 diabetes. All their programs are free to the children and families they serve.

Torba was first introduced to Camp Soaring Eagle through her job with a large company. At that time, it was her job to build a relationship with the nonprofit. Once she attended camp herself as a volunteer, she was hooked.

“I didn’t really know the impact that the camp itself made until I got to see it firsthand,” she said. “These kids come in and sometimes they’re quiet and nervous and feel out of place a little bit because they may or may not know anybody or maybe they’ve never been away from home before. You get them out there and it’s a total transformation to watch them laughing and running around and being excited. That’s what hooked me. You can see what’s physically wrong with a child as far as disabilities and illnesses go, but you don’t always see what’s going on inside. Once they are at camp, it’s like everything disappears. They’re in this camp bubble. It’s awesome.”

Campers get to enjoy activities like fishing, horseback riding, archery, arts and crafts and much more. Outside of camp, the nonprofit also hosts events for campers locally and takes them to sporting events or cultural performances.

Each weekend at camp is illness-specific, so the kids are surrounded by kids going through the same thing as them. There are also camps for siblings and families.

“This camp exists to help these children have an opportunity they couldn’t have if not for an organization like us,” Torba said. “I feel like we’re a relief for families a lot of times whether it’s the kids getting outside and playing because they haven’t been outside of a hospital in months or whether it’s relief to mom and dad knowing their kids are taken care of and they can relax for a weekend and not have to be on call all the time. I feel like we exist to bring a little happiness to everybody whether it’s mom, dad, brother or sister.”

The camp always has a need for volunteers. The organization only has three paid employees, so it depends on volunteers to run the programs they do. To volunteer, call Torba at (602) 582-5584 or visit campsoaringeagle.org.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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