Clarksville's Camp Joy boosts sense of belonging for children with amputations

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jul 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 17:55:40-04

CLARKSVILLE, Ohio — Kristen Sutherland’s life changed forever when she lost her leg.

The teenager, of Canada, said she had some trouble coming to terms with the change, feeling isolated, like she didn’t fit in anymore.

But southwest Ohio, as it turns out, provided a beacon: Camp Joy, in Clinton County, which every summer hosts hundreds of children with amputations.

“It’s my second home,” Sutherland said.

Over the past week, 145 children gathered to enjoy a sense of community they say they don’t always get back home.

“No one’s afraid of the stares that you get at home, or what people are going to think of you,” Kristen said.

Camp Director Joel Van Egbert, whose camp provides a variety of programs for more than 13,000 kids every year, said for the past nine years the camp has partnered with the Amputee Coalition of America to show campers that they are not alone.

“We want kids to feel strong,” he said. “I think it gives children an incredible sense of strength to come here and do things.”

Kristen can testify to the camp accomplishing that mission.

“A big lesson I learned is that you don’t have limits,” she said. “You’re pushing yourself.”

“It’s OK that you don’t have to compare yourself to someone else,” Kristen said.

For Joel, that’s his job’s biggest payoff: watching the kids discover they don’t have to be afraid to just be themselves.

“We’re not called Camp Joy for nothing,” he said.

For more information on Camp Joy and their programs, visit their website here.