Twins Eduard*, Emil* and their brother Eugen* arrived at Camp Ray of Hope quiet, reserved and distant. Born with hemophilia, the boys had lived the majority of their lives indoors. They have spent an average of 200 days a year in the hospital and, for the past three years, have only gone outside to travel to a medical facility.
For many children living with hemophilia, every day is a risk. The disease prevents blood from clotting, making each scrape, bruise or cut a life-threatening emergency. And in Romania, where hemophilia medications are expensive and hard to find, living a normal childhood can be impossible.
But at Camp Ray of Hope, kids living with hemophilia get to be kids. Now in its 10th year, the weeklong summer camp provides hemophilic children in Romania with the opportunity to play, connect and grow.
“The activities that we have are the activities that any camp in the United States would have for children who are healthy—all kinds of sports, theater, arts and crafts,” says Camp Organizer Adriana Henderson. “Basically everything that happens at a camp happens at ours.”
While there is no cure for hemophilia, the disease can be managed through regular administration of blood-clotting medicines. Thanks to a generous donation in May 2015 of blood factor coagulants from AmeriCares partner, Baxter International (whose BioScience and hemophilia businesses are now part of Baxalta Incorporated, a separate, independent company), Camp Ray of Hope was able to give 40 kids, including Eduard, Emil and Eugen, a near-normal summer.
By their fourth day at camp, the brothers were laughing, smiling and communicating with other campers. Once nervous about interacting, they were now developing self-confidence, self-esteem and friendships they’ll look forward to continuing in the future—a sentiment echoed by their parting words to camp counselors: we’ll see you next year!
“It meant a lot to them to be socializing, especially with kids who are also sick like them,” says Henderson. “For them to come out of their shells like this was very uplifting to me, the camp volunteers and the children.”
* Names changed.