Riley Hospital for Children kids connect through summer camp in Martinsville

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MARTINSVILLE, Ind.– Patients at Riley Hospital for Children have spent the last two weeks bonding through a special summer camp in Martinsville.

Camp About Face gives children who were born with cleft lip or another craniofacial anomaly the chance to be themselves and make new friends.

Every summer, more than 35 campers ages 8-18 attend the camp. Campers take part in various bonding activities including swimming, horseback riding, canoeing and hiking.

Brandan Aughinbaugh attended the annual summer camp for 11 years and want to become a camp counselor. The 18-year-old has already had six cleft lip and palate surgeries at Riley Hospital for Children.

“It’s really cool to have people around that have the same exact story and stuff as you do because you feel like you’re not alone,” Aughinbaugh said. “For the longest time I thought I was alone and it was frightening and scary.”

According to the CDC  2,650 babies are born in the United States every year with a cleft palate and 4,440 babies are born with a cleft lip.

These children face dozens of surgeries throughout their childhood years, surgeries that are often necessary to ensure proper eating, drinking and speaking.

“For our campers, it’s really important that they can be with other kids who have the same shared experiences,” said Angie Tomlin, Division Chief of Childhood Development at IU Health. “You can talk about what went on for you throughout your surgeries or you don’t have to, because you’re with people who just know exactly what that’s all about. It’s a really big value for kids to come to camp here.”

This is the 30th anniversary of the camp, located on 2,500 acres at Bradford Woods in Martinsville.

In celebration of the camp’s anniversary, the children were treated to an extra week of camp. Their session wraps up on Friday.

“This camp is a family, we all are the same but we are all so different,” Aughinbaugh said. “No one here has any criticism against any other person, we all love each other for who we are– we all accept each other.”

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