Meet Nancy and Katie
This Mother’s Day, we are reminded of
the incredible role mothers play in our lives: caregivers,
teachers, cheerleaders – moms do it all. We see this first
hand at The Painted Turtle and acknowledge that being a mother of
a child with a serious medical condition is one of the most
challenging and rewarding roles a mother can play.
With this understanding, The Painted Turtle is committed to providing these incredible mothers with a Camp experience that includes respite, rejuvenation, and joy.
Meet former Camper mom, Nancy, and her daughter Katie, who first attended The Painted Turtle in 2009. Moved by their experience at Camp, they have remained involved as volunteers. Their journey with Camp has provided opportunities to strengthen their relationship and gain a new perspective, all while giving back to the Camp community…together!
Katie was diagnosed with arthritis as a teenager. During one of her many rheumatologist appointments at UCLA, a doctor handed her and her mom a flyer about The Painted Turtle. They quickly looked Camp up online, watched all the videos, saw the cabins and Well Shell medical facility, and immediately thought this would be something beneficial. Katie was hesitant at first, but after a little convincing from mom, Katie was on her way. Nancy jokes about the application process being long, but it was the thorough process and knowing a rheumatologist would be onsite that reassured her that Katie would be in good hands.
In the summer of 2009, Nancy took Katie to Camp for her first overnight summer camp experience alone. This was the first time she would be cared for by someone other than her mom. Nancy had a long drive home and she remembers crying for the majority of her trip. She expected to hear from Katie during her time away, but she didn’t. There was no call, nothing. When Nancy picked her up at the end of the week, she describes Katie as a completely different kid. “For anyone who does not know Katie,” Nancy shared, “she is not much of a talker.” Though it took Katie time to open up, she ended the week having ‘farting frogs attack’ written down her arm, a big smile on her face, and spoke the entire 1 ½ hour drive home, telling Nancy the same stories over and over and over. Katie shared how she conquered the ropes course for the first time, despite having a fear of falling, and how she got as messy as possible with paint and oatmeal at Silly Olympics. Nancy relished her stories because she could see the profound effect Camp had on Katie.
The whole Giertz family came to a Family Weekend soon thereafter, where they made bottle rockets together, and as parents, had the opportunity to talk with other parents about topics like medications, specialists, school, support systems, and more. Prior to Camp, they had never met anyone going through similar medical challenges, so it was invaluable to make these connections.
As a family, they were able to try new things. Encouraged by Katie’s time on the ropes course the previous summer, Nancy wanted to give it a try, because “if Katie could do it, so could I!”
“It’s not just dealing with medical, or the doctors, or how to deal with school, it’s also experiences like losing a lot of friends, because Katie was out of school so much. Hearing from so many parents and the similar experiences creates a special bond.” – Nancy
As Katie grew older, she returned to Camp and participated in the Leadership Counselor and Leader-in-Training Programs, providing her a week of community, education, recreation, and growth, to prepare her to become a leader in her own life.
Wanting to stay involved, Nancy realized that she could volunteer at The Painted Turtle during separate sessions, but Katie asked Nancy not to volunteer at Camp because it was their experience together. Nancy honored that commitment until Katie aged out of the camper program and they could both volunteer during the same session.
They are now both regular volunteers, giving their time during sessions, events, and more. Overall, Camp has made a positive impact on their relationship as a mother and daughter in many ways. They had a strong bond before Camp, but their experiences at The Painted Turtle have taught them patience, how to use their personal journey to help others, and that positivity and perspective go a long way.
“I want to be able to help other people…I’ve been at Camper drop off as a volunteer for summer Camp and I can tell which parents are brand new to the experience. I get up from whatever I am doing and go over and say ‘It’s going to be okay. I have been there. I know exactly what you are feeling. I cried on my way home and you will too. It’s okay.’ “ – Nancy
Happy Mother’s Day to Nancy and all the moms out there! We appreciate you.
FUN FACTS ABOUT NANCY AND KATIE:
- Nancy was a professional musician and played percussion.
- Katie wrote and illustrated Lucy the Service Dog, a book about her service dog. She also has over 30,000 Legos. That’s A LOT of Legos!