Camp JRA Kicks Off

In Columbia County, more than 100 kids came together this week for Camp JRA. The camp near Millville brings together children who have juvenile arthritis.

Summer is a time when kids play outside. But running, jumping and swimming can be painful for children with juvenile arthritis.

“Outwardly the kids may look like they have nothing wrong with them, but inside they might have a lot of pain, stiffness, or loss of function in a joint,” Camp Director Danielle Stephens said.

Watching these kids zip around, it is hard to tell they have arthritis. But at Camp JRA, or “Juveniles Reaching Achievement”, they do all kinds of activities to learn about their disease and also get their minds off it.

“I used to be very shy and very quiet. Now I’m very upbeat. I interact more with people. It’s a great growing experience,” Erica Burmeister said.

Camp JRA started in 1996 near Millville. This year there are more than 100 campers, ages 8 to 18. Some of the kids say it’s a way to meet other children who know what it’s like to have arthritis.

“When I’m at home and I’m having a flare up, I can call the people I meet here and say I’m having a bad day. It just makes it better,” Ashely Donlin said.

Dylan Bradley is a counselor at Camp JRA. It’s his 7th year at the camp.

“I’m just helping them learn what I learned about the disease and about themselves,” Bradley said.

Camp JRA is one of several camps held here at Camp Victory, which is right outside Millville each summer. It’s a handicapped accessible facility for children with special needs.

“What we try to do here at camp is integrate them and let them know they can do every activity, whether it’s the climbing wall, the zip line, a kick ball game. We adapt everything so everyone can do it,” Stephens said.

Camp JRA runs until Friday.

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