Pulmonary Hypertension Spring Family Weekend
April 14-17, 2023
The wildflowers bloomed just in time for our final Family Weekend of the Spring! We opened the gates to nine incredible families from all over California, and a few from Washington! There was a super bloom of magic moments– here are just a few of many!
This weekend was extra special because our campers with Pulmonary Hypertension got an extra day! Yes, that’s right it was a four-day weekend, which meant more time for families to connect with one another and to add activities like a lunch just for moms and another one just for dads! This new addition was a hit– both groups chatted away with one another and created bonds that lasted through the weekend.
We also added a Game Night on Sunday that was meant to be very relaxed. Honestly, we weren’t thinking that many families were going to stick around, as Sunday had been fun but long, and they all had to travel home the next day. We were wrong! Almost all the families attended, and we had some epic games of Uno, Life, Peppa Pig Monopoly, and Connect 4 (big thanks to Hasbro and Mattel!) Sunday Game Night was actually one of the highlights of the weekend for many!
One seasoned Camp family has been coming to The Painted Turtle for years, but something we learned this year is that they come all the way from Mexico! They left their home early Friday morning to make it to Camp by Friday dinner, and made a lot of memories throughout the weekend!
On Saturday we asked the families to build a recycle chute maze where the goal was to build the slowest maze possible. When giving everyone instructions, we told the group that bribes of churros would be accepted if they needed more time building their recycle chutes, and low and behold multiple churros were given to the judges to extend the time. We happily complied with these bribes and families continued to build their mazes.
Eventually, it came time to officially test each family’s chute with our golden ping pong ball. These mazes were top-notch, but some were so sturdy that that ball kept getting stuck in the maze on its way down. Let’s just say there were a lot of human-created windstorms and earthquakes happening to help aid the golden ball to the finish line! When it came time for the family who had traveled all the way from Mexico to showcase their maze, we all witnessed Mom slip something into one of the judge’s pockets prior to the race. When we checked their pockets, there was a stack of custom-made Painted Turtle $100 bills! This was more than just an innocent churro; it was Painted Turtle money! This family was trying to buy the competition!! No competition that we’ve seen at Camp has had this type of bribery before. It certainly elevated the stakes and made for a very memorable evening.
This particular group takes a large medical team in order to safely support everyone that comes to The Painted Turtle for this weekend. It requires a dedicated group of Pulmonary Hypertension Doctors, Pediatricians, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, and Respiratory Therapists, who also happen to be a really amazing group of people that work incredibly close with their patients (who are also our campers!) We are always blown away by the connections and interactions they have with these kids and their families. It’s a special treat to see them interact together at Camp– enjoying time outside the clinics and hospitals.
These medical professionals fully immerse themselves into the Camp program. They are out and about with the campers, supporting all the fun and being the campers #1 cheerleaders as they conquer Ropes, Archery, and Stage Night. To top it all off, the entire Well Shell team jumped up on the stage and lead the famous Camp dance, Ice Cream & Cake, and nailed it! The kids love seeing their doctors and nurses in this light! We are so grateful for our medical volunteers, and the compassion and heart they share year-round with these families.
One thing that makes Family Weekends at The Painted Turtle so special, is that they often bring back people that we haven’t seen for a while because they’ve moved away, have started families, new careers, etc. This particular weekend turned into a reunion of faces we hadn’t seen in a long time! Longtime volunteers Pops & Sherry came down from Washington, and it’s always so great to have them around with their infinite knowledge and experience of Camp. Pun & Moose, volunteers who have been involved before Camp was even built, drove down from Oakland as they prepared to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary at the end of the month. It was extra special to see them volunteering together!
Former summer staff members who met at Camp, Greg & Melissa Adamson (Melissa also worked with us full time for a while running the Outpost program) attended with their 7 month old son, Jamie. Greg, who is now a doctor, made his official switch from the Program team to the Medical team this weekend, but was still an integral part! He, Melissa, and baby Jamie got on stage a couple of times throughout the weekend to lead us in some excellent Camp dances. We think that in about 19 years, Jamie is going to be up there as a counselor following in his parent’s footsteps!
Finally, longtime volunteers Natty Brockway & Alexa Manriquez also made their grand return this weekend! Natty helped us out on the ropes course, and Alexa officially made her entrance into the medical team. All of these folks, and so many more (!) made this weekend extra special. We are so appreciative of our dedicated and growing Camp community.
During our Camp closing, a microphone is passed around where families can share a magic moment from the weekend. We get a range of favorite moments, but this one in particular stuck out. One very cool camper who has attended several family weekends, is now 18, and this was her last weekend as a camper. During the magic moment portion, she raised her hand and at first said, “Everything!” was magical, but then expanded on it and said, “It was a life-changing, unforgettable moment. Camp is always going to be in our hearts and souls.”
Special thanks to all the families, volunteers, and supporters that made this weekend so incredible! We can’t do what we do without all of you.
Now who’s ready for Summer?!