Bet You've Never Been To Ostomy Camp - Uncover Ostomy
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Bet You’ve Never Been To Ostomy Camp

Team orange

I was just in the library a little while ago and I was bored so I started looking through my tagged pictures on Facebook and came across this one. [can you spot me? I’m in the tiara. Don’t ask lol]

It was taken with my cabin/team/friends of Horizon Summer camp at the end of our week together back in the summer of 2007. I still remember that week, and the week I went in 2004, like it was yesterday.

Horizon Summer camp is located outside of Calgary Alberta, hidden in the mountains. It is a summer getaway for kids [and some adults] with all sorts of illnesses and disabilities. The two years I went, I went for ostomy camp.

Not every kid that went to ostomy camp, however, had an ostomy like I did. Yeah, there were the kids with the good old ileostomies, like me,  but there were also the kids with colostomies, urostomies, kids with their “bags” on the inside, and kids who had gotten their ostomies reversed. There was a wide range of us, and we all learned from each other.

I don’t even know how to talk about camp because being there was not something you can just type out. I mean, I can say how we did all the normal summer camp things like swim, rock climb, arts and crafts, food fights…etc, but Horizon was so much more than a normal summer camp experience.

I know this, because I went to normal summer sleepover camp too. So not the same.

There was something different with this camp.

Our campfire activities did not just include scary stories of axe murders, but they were also about scary hospital stories. Swimming was not just about jumping into the water, but about learning which types of bathing suits to wear and how to wear them with our bags. Bed times were not about staying up late and talking about boys we liked, but actually about how to tell these boys we had ostomies. Camp was not just about getting over the fear of having an ostomy, but also getting over the fear of white water rafting [which I did].

Camp was not just camp. Camp was a support system.

Not only did I have other campers to learn from and who could learn from me, but I had counsellors, nurses, and volunteers there as well. The counsellors were there to make sure we went to activities and didn’t disappear to do our own thing. They were the watchdogs. One counsellor told me that she noticed how the ostomy group was much harder to control because we were just like normal kids. Duh.

The nurses were great too because, obviously they were there if we had any issues, but mostly they taught us tips and tricks with products and gave us information on potential problems and ways to avoid them. It was a resource not everyone had been able to have back home.

…Now I don’t want to come off  biased or mean or anything… But the volunteers were definitely my favourite people at camp [besides the kids]. These volunteers were people, with, or without ostomies, who just wanted to come lend support and join in on the fun of camp. It was great to hear stories and tips and learn from the volunteers who had ostomies who were older. It was nice to see what the road ahead could lead to. It was also great to have volunteers who didn’t have ostomies. I actually asked one volunteer why he volunteered if he didn’t have an ostomy. He told me it was because he wanted to help the kids. In the end, however, he ended up telling me that instead, the kids had helped him by showing our bravery and our courage. We taught him a thing or two!

I’m kind of sad now, thinking of all this… I haven’t been able to go in a few years. When you hit the age of 18- you graduate. So in 2007, right before I turned 18, I graduated Horizon. The rule goes you can’t come back and volunteer until you’re 21. I’m 21 this Sept. So to see if I could bend the rules, I sent an email to the coordinator of the camp, Pat, hoping to hear good news. Well I did hear good news- the camp is expanding and they are taking in way more campers! That means tons more kids can now go to camp and experience all the same things I did. That really puts a smile on my face. On the flip side/selfish side, however, Pat, told me I’m being put on a list of people who also want to volunteer and I’ll be told if I’m chosen since there are too many….

I hope I’m chosen.

Jessica Grossman
  • Ken Hayward
    Posted at 02:26h, 03 February

    I went to my first ostomy camp way back in 1986 when it was held in British Columbia. It was a fantastic experience because it was the first time in ten year of having an ostomy that I was able to meet someone else my age with an ostomy. I can not even begin to express how beneficial it was. I have recently been trying to catch up with my fellow campers from back then so I have set up a Facebook group to help former and current campers stay in touch. The link for the page is!/group.php?gid=258799550636.

    Ken Hayward
    St. John’s, NL

  • Bob P
    Posted at 02:28h, 03 February

    Can you send me a link to Camp Horizon? I work at my local YMCA ( and am in discussion with the folks at Camp Winnebago to do something similar.

  • tamara
    Posted at 08:41h, 03 February

    oh wow that is so cool!
    i wish i could go to one of those :[

  • Kristin
    Posted at 06:03h, 08 February

    I went to Camp Horizon a few years back as well 🙂 I LOVED it..It was such an amazing experience. For me it was a little uncomfortable at first because I come from a small town where I was the only person/child I knew who had an ileostomy (I went to camp with an ileostomy, which I had for about 3 years, but it has been reversed for the last 5 years now). I would love to some day volunteer at Horizon, do you know how I could get ahold of Pat? She is such a wonderful person. I remember meeting her at the airport my first day there, and talking to her weeks before the trip even started. Camp Horizon allows kids to have a new perspective on life dealing with their diseases and disabilities, I wish I could have had the chance to go more.