Saturday, July 21, 2018 – Aiea, HI
The first ever Camp Gigi was a beautiful, fun-filled day for both children and adults who have been directly impacted by ALS. The Camp was a collaboration between The ALS Association Golden West Chapter and ALS Ohana, with volunteers from numerous organizations including Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific, medical students from The University of Hawaii, and community members. The goal of to connect children whose parents or grandparents have been diagnosed with ALS with others facing the same circumstances to build solidarity, learn healthy outlets, and have the chance to just be kids.
Camp Gigi is named in honor of Gigi Reed, who has been courageously living with ALS since 2014. Her daughter, Skylar La Torre-Couch, wanted to do something to bring the youth in the ALS community together.
“I was in high school when my mother-in-law, Vi, was diagnosed with ALS,” shared Natalie Fonda, President of ALS Ohana, a partner organization of the Golden West Chapter, and participant in the Hawaii Walk to Defeat ALS. “I remember, as a teenager, it was difficult to relate to my friends because of what I was going through at home. All I wanted was to be able to talk to people the same age as me who could relate to what I was experiencing. I needed that type of support a system. I can only imagine how difficult it is for younger children.
“Camp Gigi provides THAT space. It's a place for children to connect with other children who are going through a similar situation of living with a parent or loved one with ALS. It is also a day where they can just be kids. Our hope is that the friendships created here will create the support to last a lifetime.”
This year’s Camp was held at Halawa Regional Park on Saturday, July 21, and more than 13 children who have been directly affected by ALS and their families attended. The day started off with an ice breaker and meet and greet, followed by a ropes course sponsored by KAMP Hawaii. After a delicious lunch brought to the park by Pipe Dreams Surf Co, campers got an exciting and educational visit from Hawaii Fi-Do, and the children were able to learn all about service dogs and how to interact with dogs and animals in general.
The adults had time to learn about emotionally connecting, listening, and communicating effectively within the family unit through a discussion led by Dr. Kristina Pikuna, PhD, LLC.
The day ended with journaling with emoji’s, heartfelt discussions, and a Healing Circle to help children learn how to talk about and cope with ALS in a constructive way.
“Camp Gigi was a meaningful and wonderful day that needed to happen here in Hawaii,” said Terryn Davis, The ALS Association Golden West Chapter’s Care Manager in Hawaii, “It is so important to take care of our families battling with ALS here in Hawaii and making sure the children feel happy and safe, even in the face of this disease, if only for a day. Camp Gigi was meant to help them learn to cope with ALS in a positive way and interact with other children facing the same challenges.”
This new program of Golden West Chapter was made possible through the fundraising success of the annual Hawaii Walk to Defeat ALS held each fall at Kapiolani Park. Help us continue to bring meaningful programming to the community by joining this year’s Walk on Saturday, September 15, visit www.HawaiiWalkToDefeatALS.org to sign up today.