Meet Brady. A sixteen-year-old kid from West Des Moines, Iowa, who loves reading Fantasy and Science-Fiction books. His favorite subject in school is science. Roundup River Ranch has been Brady’s lifeline since his first visit when he was 12 years old. Roundup is the only summer camp Brady has attended, and the only place he will get to experience a traditional sleepaway camp.
Brady’s mom, Dawn, shares why, “Roundup River Ranch makes me feel comfortable and confident when caring for Brady. The nurses and doctors on-site take care of him and all of his illnesses – so there is just no way he could go to another camp, or I just don’t trust to send him anywhere else, he’s only been to Roundup River Ranch.”
That is why the 16-hour drive to Gypsum, Colorado makes it all worth it. Brady thrives at camp, and what he loves most (even more fun than the Zipline) are the interactions and connections he makes with new and old friends.
Since he can remember, Brady has been living with asthma. He recalls taking trips to the hospital every December when he was two and three years old when his asthma got really bad. He explains what it is like living with asthma, “It’s like breathing through a straw – that is how I typically feel. When I have an attack, it feels like a hamster-sized lung breathing through a straw. I don’t have enough lung space.” Brady was born with fluid in his lungs and has been on breathing treatments for the majority of his life.
Brady also lives with Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS), a rare neurological disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep. There is no known cure. The fatigue can be so severe that people with KLS are bedridden until an episode passes. Brady started feeling symptoms of KLS when he was 13 years old. His mother shares what it is like for Brady, “At school, he falls asleep when he is talking to his teachers. Brady doesn’t know when he is about to fall asleep, and when he has an episode, he falls to sleep for many hours throughout the day.”
Once COVID-19 prevented Brady from being physically at camp this summer, he was hopeful that Roundup River Ranch would think of something else. When he heard camp was going online, he was thrilled to be able to participate in camp after all. Most of all, he was grateful to still be able to see his friends and counselors. When his Camp Kit arrived, Brady said, “It was in that moment, I felt like camp was actually going to happen. It felt real, especially when I saw the camp t-shirt, I felt like I was going to camp!”
Fortunately, Camp Online this year made it possible for Brady to attend the whole session. After experiencing a KSL episode, he was admitted to the hospital. Once he got settled into the hospital room, he was able to log back into camp and participate in activities with his cabinmates. Brady was even surprised how interactive Camp Online was – he really appreciated the whiteboard drawing section on the online platform.
Brady’s favorite memory from Camp Online was when his cabin played “Hat Shenanigans.” It is a silly game where you try to fit as many hats on your head at once or you can create the weirdest assortments of hats (even pillow hats). One of his cabinmates found 28 hats and wore them all at once. Brady giggled as he reminisced, “It was so much FUN! I even put a bowl on my head and made the pun of a “bowler hat!”
When asked what it meant for him to be able to participate in camp from the hospital, Brady shared, “It felt like I got to do camp in a way I wouldn’t have been able to at camp on-site, so honestly, I felt lucky about this year because of the timing of when my episode hit. And, it made my treatment a lot less boring because I got to interact with my friends and cabinmates.”
If Brady had a KSL episode while on-site, he would have had to leave Roundup River Ranch and miss out on the joy. Through Camp Online, Brady learned how much fun you can have – even if you are not in the same room as your friends.
Brady describes Roundup River Ranch in three words – safe, accepting, and fun. “It’s safe because everyone is welcoming and it’s an environment you don’t have to worry about something going wrong with your diagnosis. It’s accepting because it doesn’t matter who you are or what your condition is. And it’s fun because it’s seriously fun.”
His mom says they keep coming back to RRR, because it feels like it is home for Brady. “Camp is his happy place. Camp is the one place that he doesn’t have to be the sick kid, or the kid that sleeps all the time. He can just be Brady.”
Dawn and Brady would like to thank all of the generous supporters from the bottom of their hearts for giving them this life-changing gift. She said if camp was not free, it would not have been financially feasible for Brady to attend these past few years. This year, Dawn was even more appreciative that Roundup River Ranch was able to offer camp online at no cost, so campers like Brady would not miss out on their favorite week of the year.
“Going online showed us no matter what life throws at you, you can take your camp family with you anywhere! Thank you for all you do for these kids. Having a place where Brady feels connected is so important to his health, in-person, or virtually.”
Give today for campers like Brady.
With your help, we will reach our campaign goal to provide year-round programming to children with serious illnesses and their families. Any gift you make before December 31 will be doubled – to serve more campers just like Brady. Click here to make a gift.