On day seven of his stay at University Hospital, 16-year old Daniel Navarro almost forgot he was sick. He pulled on a bright green t-shirt emblazoned with the word “campers” and joined a half dozen other pediatric patients building miniature ice cream trucks with Lego building blocks.
As part of the hospital’s two-week Camp University Kids, LEGOLAND Discovery Center brought Master Model Builder Kevin Hintz, mascot Bertie and packets of plastic Lego bricks to camp.
Daniel, who is being treated for pancreatitis, grew up playing with Legos. He sat next to Hintz, who showed him a few new construction techniques.
“It’s cool,” he said. “This is a hospital so you’re worried about what’s wrong. This makes you feel like it’s not all negative.”
During Camp University Kids, Child Life specialists invited community organizations and businesses to provide activities and events that gave hospitalized children a taste of summer camp.
“There are kids who have never been to camp before because of their diagnosis,” said Child Life Program Manager Jennifer Ibarra. “Some are more complex patients who’ve been living with their illnesses for a while. We have other patients who financially can’t do these things. It’s not only fun but it’s educational as well.”
Child Life Specialist Monica Gibson said providing the engaging activities outside hospital rooms helps reduce the stress of being a sick kid.
“This is something they’d be doing during summer. It’s a normalization experience,” she said.
Camp activities for some 40 pediatric patients and their siblings included carnival games, craft demonstrations provided by Home Depot and the San Antonio Zoo, and an autograph-signing session with Missions baseball players.
The Witte Museum dazzled children with science experiments, Camp Whimsy taught canvas painting and Magik Theatre performers entertained the children with a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk.