Kids at Camp Winning Hands Show What it Really Means to Be a Star

Patients from Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California showed their individual talents when they gathered at Camp Arroyo in Livermore July 6 – 8, for Camp Winning Hands.

They were among 64 kids with hand differences who came from near and far to participate in the three-day camp.  In keeping with the camp’s Hollywood theme, the campers showed what it really means to be a star.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital (formerly Oakland Children’s), the Taylor Family Foundation and Shriners Hospitals for Children established Camp Winning Hands in 2010.  The purpose of the camp is to give children living without the benefit of two fully functional hands a chance to explore their potential in a safe and supportive setting.

Each year, camp is organized around a different theme, and Hollywood set the tone for this year’s activities. Swimming, arts and crafts, rock climbing and archery were among the traditional camp activities. One of camp’s biggest hits was the movie-making experience. Campers formed their own “studios” and presented their films at an “Oscar Night” celebration on the final evening.

“It was our best camp ever. The energy was palpable. The joy and excitement on the children’s faces was heartwarming,” said Janice Conroy, assistant camp director and case manager for the hand team at the Northern California Shriners Hospital.

As the number of campers has grown over the years, so has volunteer participation.  Two hand surgeons, Dr. Michelle James, chief of orthopaedics, and Dr. Claire Manske represented the medical team.  Three former upper-extremity patients volunteered as camp counselors and served as mentors to the kids.  Twelve hospital staff members also volunteered to work at Camp Winning Hands.

Tal Oppenheimer and Sarah Tuberty, both former patients, guided campers through the Oscar night festivities and entertained their audience with song and dance routines.    The entire camp came together in a flash mob when they played Good to Be Alive by Andy Grammer at the award-night celebration.

“This camp has generated such an oasis for our campers to share their experiences and learn that they are not alone! I was humbled by their stories and cried happy tears at the love, support and vulnerability shown by campers and counselors alike. This is how adaptability and resilience are developed,” said Tuberty.

Those sentiments are echoed by her fellow camp counselor.

“Every year Camp Winning Hands manages to be one of my favorite weeks of the year, and this year was no exception,” said Oppenheimer. “From running around in our human foosball court, to joining in on our flash mob, to cheering each other on after their movie debuts, the campers were always ready to jump right in.  But beyond all our scheduled camp activities, one of the best parts is seeing the campers get to have conversations with each other.  Whether it’s a younger camper seeing a teen camper or counselor with a similar hand difference and excitedly running up to them waving their own hand or a camper eagerly explaining their hand difference to a friend, it’s incredible to see how quickly everyone feels comfortable just being themselves.”

Shriners Hospitals for Children is devoted to transforming the lives of children through excellence in treatment, teaching and research.  Located at 2425 Stockton Boulevard in Sacramento, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California provides care to children with orthopaedic conditions, spinal cord injuries, burns, cleft lip, scars from any cause and other complex surgical needs. There are no barriers to care as admission is based on age and diagnosis.   Care is provided regardless of the family’s ability to pay. For further information call (916) 453-2000.

Media Contact:  Catherine Curran | Public Relations (916) 453-2218 |

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