Group of nursing students standing arm in arm at Camp Stix.
Some of the WSU College of Nursing students who are volunteering at 2017 Camp Stix. From left: Daniel Lyakhov, Lauren McClanahan, Brian Sandvig, Sarah Gibson, Jenny Irish, and Lauren Gerty.

By Addy Hatch

CUSICK, Wash. – The kids at Camp Stix make arts and crafts, swim, and play AWOL, a camp-wide game of hide-and-seek. It’s like any other summer camp, and that’s the point.

Most of the nearly 200 campers have Type 1 diabetes. It would be hard, maybe impossible, for them to go to summer camp if not for Camp Stix and its large medical team, specialized menus and 1-to-1 camper-to-staff ratio.

WSU nursing and pharmacy students are among the medical volunteers. The students work in interdisciplinary teams with medical professionals in a gym that’s renamed MASH during Camp Stix. There are tables where campers come to have their blood sugar tested before each meal and snack, and MASH volunteers make nightly rounds of cabins to monitor kids whose blood sugar has been trending lower, said “Jackpot” Jacob McGowan, director of Camp Stix (where staff all have camp names).

Photo of Lauren McClanahan with a bright vest that says MASH
WSU College of Nursing student Lauren McClanahan is working in the medical building at Camp Stix, called MASH.

Many of the College of Nursing students who are volunteering at the week-long camp say they’re getting experience in patient care, communications and teamwork that would be hard to replicate in the classroom.

“It feels like I’m out there in the RN world,” said “Sourpatch” Sarah Baker.

Students are eased into their roles during the week-long camp, noted “Langerhans” Lori Parisot, a College of Nursing instructor who’s spending her second year at Camp Stix.

“By the end of the week they’re making a lot of decisions about how to treat children with diabetes,” she said. “Their confidence will be so much bigger. It’s one of the best medical experiences you can have.”

College of Nursing faculty and students have a long connection with Camp Stix, which is in its 17th year. In recent years it’s been held at the Riverview Bible Camp on the Pend Oreille River near Cusick, Wash.

“We always hear about how powerful this camp is,” said “BOHB” Brian Sandvig, a senior nursing student.

“Electric” Emma Trayte, 21, is a camp counselor now, but she first attended Camp Stix as a teenager with Type 1 diabetes. “The most important part is the normalcy, being able to see and connect with kids who have the same struggles,” she said.

Photo of two boys at Camp Stix.
Hunter, 13, and James, 12, met at this year’s Camp Stix. Both have been to camp in the past.

Hunter, 13, is from Walla Walla, and is spending his fourth summer at Camp Stix. He said he feels comfortable there, “because everybody has diabetes.” Elizabeth, also 13, is from Orofino, Idaho, and it’s her first time at camp. “Everybody has a good time, singing songs, the skits are hilarious,” she said. “Everybody has a blast.”

The MASH volunteers gather as a group in the morning for updates and announcements, and to “shout out” to their colleagues. They end the session with a group huddle. “Why do we do this?” yells MASH medical director “Bronco” Bill Martin, a physician assistant who specializes in pediatric endocrinology.  “BECAUSE WE CARE!” the group responds.

Said Parisot, of the WSU College of Nursing, “People have a real heart for this. The motto here is, “Until there’s a cure, there’s camp.”

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About Camp Stix: The camp is held for a week in July, and there’s a related day camp for younger kids, Camp Twigs, held at Dart-Lo Day Camp. Both are run by Camp Stix Diabetes Programs, a 501(c)3 nonprofit . The camp is funded by camper tuition, and public and private donations. For information or to donate, visit www.campstix.org.

WSU College of Nursing students participating in 2017 Camp Stix:

  • “Lavagirl” Lauren Gerty
  • “Lemondrop” Lauren McClanahan
  • “BOHB” Brian Sandvig
  • “Sweetart” Sarah Gibson
  • “Jugular” Jenny Irish
  • “Dawn Phenom” Daniel Lyakhov
  • “Sourpatch” Sarah Baker
  • “Ramble” Rachel Felgenhauer
  • “Bit-o-Honey” Brianna Bartlett
  • “Effervescent” Elyse Beckett
  • “Klickster” Kris Wood