Unique Summer Camp Where Differences Make No Difference
Free Camp for Kids with Limb Differences Founded by UM Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon
Monkton, MD- At Camp Open Arms, you will see boys and girls talking and laughing as they make new friends and swing on rope swings, play soccer, learn how to hula dance, hike through the woods and play laser tag.
But this is no ordinary summer camp: It is a special camp for kids with limb differences.
The free camp, now in its fourth year, was held Aug. 13-18 at Camp Running Bear, in Monkton in northern Baltimore County. The campers range in age from four to 15; many of them return year after year
The camp was founded and is run by Joshua M. Abzug, MD, a University of Maryland pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in treating children with upper extremity conditions, including congenital arm or hand differences or birth-related nerve damage. This includes brachial plexus birth palsy, which affects one or two of every 1,000 babies, and situations where children are missing all or part of a hand or arm, or their limb is reduced in size. About 1,500 children are born in the U.S. with such limb differences each year.
Many of the campers are Dr. Abzug’s patients. “It’s not only about treating their medical issues but taking care of their heart and soul,” says Dr. Abzug, an associate professor of orthopaedics and pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of pediatric orthopaedics at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital.
“Many of these children are teased or feel like they can’t do things that other kids can do. I wanted to create a place where they would be accepted and have fun trying some things they thought they couldn’t do,” Dr. Abzug says. “I also wanted to bring families together to share experiences and support one another.”
More than 30 children from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania signed up for this year’s camp, which had a Hawaiian theme. “You don’t feel like you are all by yourself in the world,” says one camper of the experience. “You get to interact with kids who have problems like yours.,” said another.
Camp Open Arms is a collaboration between the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital and the University of Maryland Department of Orthopaedics. It is funded by donations from local individuals and organizations and staffed by volunteers.