Friday, June 21, 2013

6 SLU PT Students Volunteer at the Lupus Foundation of America's Summer Jam Youth Retreat

SLU PT Students Claire McKeone, Claire McInerney, Molly Gries, Mollye Leas, Laura Sloan, 
and Lindsay Noesen (Class of 2014) at the Lupus Foundation of America’s Summer Jam Youth Retreat

From June 7th-9th I spent my weekend alongside 5 other SLU physical therapy students volunteering as a camp counselor for the Lupus Foundation of America’s Summer Jam Youth Retreat. Molly Gries, Mollye Leas, Claire McInerney, Claire McKeone, Lindsay Noesen, and I are all in the second professional year of the Program in Physical Therapy at SLU.
The youth retreat is a weekend long summer camp for girls with Lupus that serves as an opportunity for them to talk and get to know others fighting battles similar to their own, while also having a camp experience they might not have had otherwise. Most of the campers have Lupus, while the rest were there to support their friends who have the disease.   
    Lupus is one of many diseases whose owner’s outward appearance may not indicate that they are even sick, but inside of them there is a battle in which each of their bodies is fighting against itself.  As an autoimmune disorder it can manifest itself in many different ways and at varying degrees. Symptoms range from joint pain to chest pain to fever. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, and skin lesions commonly found on the face and known as a butterfly rash. Statistics from the Lupus Foundation of America indicate that “more than 16,000 Americans develop Lupus each year and that anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Lupus,” the majority of whom are women.
   Throughout the spring the 6 of us met with members of the Lupus Foundation to plan and organize in order to make it the best camp experience possible.  At camp the girls participated in a variety of crazy activities we planned for them including making masks, decorating flip-flops, performing skits, and practicing yoga among many other camp activities.  I personally did not know what to expect from the weekend, but it was an absolutely amazing and unforgettable experience.  The campers were receptive to new games and ideas as well as each other.  They helped each other make s’mores at the campfire, worked together with their cabin-mates on a scavenger hunt, and sang karaoke like rock stars.   With or without Lupus, there was a great mutual respect among these young women and we were all very honored to be a part of this for a brief window in time. It was a brilliant demonstration of the strength of the human spirit that I can only hope these young women will take with them on their life journey with Lupus. To see more pictures from the retreat you can visit the Lupus Foundation of America’s Facebook page at Lupus Foundation of America Heartland Chapter.

Laura Sloan (Class of 2014)

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