Shriners Hospital Patients Pursue Personal Best at Camp Winning Hands

Camp Winning Hands

While athletes competed in the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer, patients of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California shared their own Olympic triumphs at Camp Winning Hands.

More than 50 children and teens with hand differences spent August 7 – 10 exploring their potential and pursuing their personal best at the overnight camp organized by Shriners Hospitals for Children in partnership with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and The Taylor Family Foundation.

Camp Winning Hands counselors carried a lighted torch as they led participants through opening ceremonies in the golden hills of Camp Arroyo in Livermore. Joining the parade were a group of enthusiastic campers ranging in age from 7 to 17. Some had missing arms, a missing hand or missing fingers. Others had upper extremity differences that presented unique challenges. Walking side-by-side with the campers were former patients of Shriners Hospital with hand differences, who were there to counsel, support and mentor.


“We chose the Olympic theme because it speaks to the meaning of camp,” said Janice Conroy, R.N., care manager for the hand program at the Northern California Shriners Hospital and co-director of Camp Winning Hands.  “The camp experience allows kids living with hand differences an opportunity to explore their potential and celebrate personal triumphs in a safe and supporting environment.”

Fishing, archery, gymnastics and team competition events were among the many camp activities. During a special evening program, children’s author and guest counselor Ryan Haack read and autographed his book, Different is Awesome. Ryan lives with a hand difference.

“I was amazed to see the kind and fun-loving competitive spirit of our Camp Winning Hands Olympians and enjoyed watching our counselors and teen campers embrace, mentor and support our younger ones,” said Conroy.

Patients of Shriners Hospitals for Children have participated in Camp Winning Hands since 2010, when the Northern California Shriners Hospital collaborated with the occupational therapy team at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital (then Oakland Children’s) and The Taylor Family Foundation to create the unique camping experience.   The camp is an example of how Shriners Hospital care extends beyond hospital walls.

“We use our hands to express ourselves in so many ways, whether or not they are typically developed,” says Michelle James, M.D., a noted pediatric hand surgeon and chief of orthopaedics at the Northern California Shriners Hospital in Sacramento.  “Kids who are born with a hand difference can do almost anything – and it is deeply gratifying to help them realize their potential through hand camp!”

“We use our hands to express ourselves in so many ways,” says Dr. James. “Try to imagine playing an instrument, gripping a pen, tying shoes, climbing a ladder, painting or swimming without a fully functioning hand. To most of us the challenge is unfathomable, but children can adapt when given the proper medical and emotional support.”

Many children served by Shriners Hospitals for Children find the support they need to pursue new challenges at Camp Winning Hands.



Camp Winning Hands

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 or go online to

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

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