A Day in the Life of a Kidney Camper


eronica (name changed for privacy), a petite 10-year-old, sits on her bed chattering about her hike yesterday at Camp Chief Ouray.


“A bunch of us kids and my brother went on a hike and it was fun, it was really fun! I don’t go hiking and stuff like that. We went up to Bear Cave, it was pretty fun- I had never been in anything like that.”


It is her third day at camp and Veronica has been talking non-stop about the activities she does here- including rock climbing.


“I climbed. There was only a couple more [holds] I had to climb but I couldn’t do it because I have a bit of an infection around my catheter and the harness was rubbing against  it. I told the counselor ‘I can’t really’ and he was like ‘No! You can!’ All the kids that say, ‘I can’t walk anymore’ or ‘I don’t think I can do’ or ‘I think I need to go home”- it’s a little different for me.”


While Veronica participates in the same activities as every child at camp, she has to spend up to 11 hours every day in dialysis because of a failed kidney.  In between talking about her time at camp, she rattles off the names of medicines and procedures without breaking step. Veronica is part of the Vacation Kidney Center, which helps children with failed or damaged kidneys be a part of camp life.

Veronica, whose mother is staying with her during her week at camp, routinely has to miss evening activities, so she can be be back in time for the morning. Sometimes Veronica does “day dwells” which means she hooks up to the machine which cleans her kidney during the day, so she can enjoy more time during the evenings.


She says that camp is really different that her normal life, where she usually doesn’t do as many activities. She says usually she watches movies or walks outside.


“It’s fun here and I like it. I’ve never been to a camp before, so it is a little different than home. We do a lot more activities and hiking. I’m excited to go swimming and make goo in Mad Science!”


Despite her hardships that come with her condition,  Veronica is overwhelming positive about her condition.


“After a couple of years, you get used doing things you won’t normally do and don’t like to do….A lot of kids have it a lot worse than me, I understand that. When I would go into the hospital, there would be kids with blood dripping down and staples in their head. When in little towns, I would see people without arms and legs.”


The Vacation Kidney Center is a dialysis clinic based in Snow Mountain Ranch, located close to Camp Chief Ouray. The center is open for campers with kidney issues one session out of the summer.


Session 8: Roman Empire Week


he ruthless general Julius Caesar is bored of his newly acquired realm of Camp Chief Ouray. He has decided to spice up his dominion by instigating a gladiator competition throughout the land. Caesar has invited his friend, Cleopatra, and her entourage, the Spice Girls to partake of the duels. Ever a dictator, Caesar forced all of the lowly counselors to compete as gladiators; a spectacle from which none were left standing.


Shocked by Caesar’s disregard for humanity, ‘Nsync showed up to camp to combat Caesar and the Spice Girls. After a furious dance-off during dinner, Caesar still would not let CCO get away so easily; he demanded a rematch in the form of an epic battle.  Campers chose sides, picked their weapons of either foam noodles or socks, and waited eagerly for the live action role playing to begin. The victors had to not only persevere through a blockade of opposing campers but also had to grab a flag off each Spice Girl and member of ‘Nsync.
Ultimately, the ‘Nsync army won and received an approving thumbs-up from Caesar. A spirited Roman dance soon ensued and Caesar left CCO in peace, vowing to never meddle in camp affairs again.


The Hunger Games-


juxtaposed future of extreme excess or bleak mining towns, revolutions of the everyday people against their rulers, memorable and heartbreaking characters and storylines, and… child-on-child homicide. Which pairing does not seem to belong with the others? We are talking about the “Hungers Games” (and also this week’s theme) of course and the appropriateness of it for children.


A quick summary (for those who live in isolation of popular culture) the “Hungers Games” is a fictional book and movie about the future of America after some sort of apocalyptic event. The continental U.S. is now divided in 12 districts, the Eastern Capital being very urbanized and affluent. To keep the districts from the revolting, the rulers made the Hunger Games. A annual “game” where two children from each district battle to the death in an arena. The victor goes on to live a life of ease and luxury.


From “Hunger Games” movie

A controversial plot for sure, and one that has many parents debating on whether their children should be watching a movie about children killing each other. Such news sources like NPR and the Los Angeles Times covered this topic and brought in experts to examine the situation.


Tananarive Due is an award-winning author of nine books, including supernatural thrillers for children. When asked by NPR host Michel Martin about the “Hunger Games,” she said,


“Well, I actually enjoyed it a great deal, but it’s kind of funny to me. I think it might be more difficult for those of us who are parents to sit and watch it than for our kids. You know, they haven’t really experienced loss the way most of us have by the time we get to our age. So in some ways it’s not real, it’s almost like a video game, but against a backdrop of some thought-provoking ideas and concepts.”


The video game aspect of the “Hunger Games” is a large component of its popularity. Since the games are in a futuristic setting, it seems less real to viewers. The video game element is a reflection on another theme of the “Hunger Games”- reality television.


In the “Hunger Games” the game is broadcast for entertainment for the districts and many life-or-death factors are controlled by adults to make a compelling storyline for the population to watch. This is similar to many reality shows like “Survivor”  a theme that Baylor University English professor Greg Garrett expands on:


“When you look at the emotional bloodshed that takes place on these shows and the vicarious enjoyment we take from that — one of [Hunger Games author] Suzanne Collins’ points and I think it comes across very clearly in the movie — there is something demeaning that takes place when we feed off the emotions and the lives of the people we are watching.”
So while the “Hunger Games” book has been out since 2008 and the movie came out just last year, it is hard to escape the cultural phenomenon. But it is ultimately up to the individual parent to decide if the content in the “Hunger Games” is appropriate for their children.


At Camp Chief Ouray, we are just finishing up our week revolving around the “Hunger Games”. However, we tried to incorporate as many non-violent aspects as possible. While we still had LARPing, it involved foam noodles and a two-hits-and-you’re-out system. We tried to keep the children out of the theme storyline- limiting the any fighting and subsequent death to fictional characters (see our theme week recap blog for more details). Most importunely, in lieu of the seriousness of the “Hunger Games”, we kept things very humorous and lightheaded at camp.

Session 7: District 16

Spanning across the years, Camp Chief Ouray has had it’s chosen favorite characters. From the high energy of Camper David, the loud brashness of elderly couple Merv and Coral, the mystery of Boxhead, to the unmistakable fast-paced sales pitches of Bob Hannity of Hannity Hondas- they have all left a lasting imprint on our campers minds.


This week, in District 16 Hunger Games, campers can finally realize a long awaited dream- to see their favorite characters battle for glory and honor in our sage-brush arena.


To help the tributes with food and extra armor during the games, campers participated in their own training games to win points for their chosen tributes.


However, after an epic LARPing (live action role playing- fighting using noodles and the honor system), the many of the tributes were no more.The deaths of so many beloved camp characters fueled a rebellion against the government in the Capitol.


The campers and remaining tributes captured the Capitol’s many cleverly-hidden flags, resulting in the government’s overthrow and a joyous dance party followed. Luckily, our campers still got to dance with their favorite characters as they were all miraculously revived in time to join the festivities.

Meet our Master of Fun & Games


avid Swift- master of capture the flag, expert at DJ-ing, champion LARP-er, maestro of musical lunches, crafter of intricate story lines and characters- explains his job as Master of Fun & Games at Camp Chief Ouray.


David on the right, with a fellow counselor during Capture the Flag

Describe your job.

My job really consists of its title: Master of Fun & Games.  I get to spearhead the all-camp games that happen every Monday andWednesday after dinner.  Each week I weave a twisted  plot, incorporating games into the plot line.  My only prompt for my stories is the theme week title, so I make up a crazy story. It’s very fun. It’s kind of my favorite job ever.

Why did you apply for this job?

Some seek their fortune; others are hand selected to walk in the footsteps of ingenious leaders that have gone before them.  My two very good friends, who had this job in 2012 and 2013 benevolently badgered me to the point of acquiescence.  It was my calling…or they’re calling me…over and over. According to them, it’s the best job they ever had and I’d have to agree with them. I just graduated college andthis position seemed like a good outlet for creativity.

Why have you continued to come to Camp Chief Ouray?

Well I started working here in 2010 and it was certainly one of the best summers of my life. I made life-long friends that summer and still talk to many of those friends to this day. After that, I applied to be an LIT Counselor and led backpacking trips for a summer. Nothing can compare to a few months spent roaming Rocky Mountain National Park.  Unless, of course, it’s masterminding games for campers at CCO.


Harry Potter Week at CCO

After the defeat of Voldemort, the wizarding world was quick to banish him from their memories. However, across the pond, the community of Camp Chief Ouray was reluctant to forget. Before Voldemort was the embodiment of evil, he was Tom Riddle, a lonely orphan in need of love and affection. Through the generous scholarship fund at CCO Tom was sponsored to attend camp every summer.

While in his 5th year in Teton cabin, he became obsessed with Camp Magic and the Spirit Sticks. When Tom contacted Marty, camp’s fearless director, pleading to visit camp one last time, Marty acquiesced with much hesitation.

Tom’s visit purposefully coincided with Harry’s reunion at Snow Mountain Ranch. Harry, Hermione, Ron and Hagrid wanted to help CCO with their Rowdie campfire on that fateful Sunday night, not knowing Tom Riddle would descend upon the scene.



After an encouraging round of “Pink Pajamas” and “The Penguin Song” the mood darkened and Tom took over.  Changing into Voldemort before the camper’s eyes, he ruthlessly stole the first Spirit Stick turned put part of his soul into it, making it a Horcux. It was up to Harry and friends to defeat him once again, with the help of CCO campers.

With Voldermort’s mayhem raging, many cabins chose sides in the great struggle. The Death Eater cabins fought with the Harry Potter Fan Club, while the Muggles tried sell Hondas with a “used but runs like new” car parade through camp. The House Elves earned their freedom by cleaning other cabins’ tables after meals, while the Challengers became Hogwarts entirely- with their own Houses, games, tournaments and a mobile wand shop.

After an epic all-camp Quidditch game, the campers realized Voldemort and his Death Eaters had hidden more horcruxes around camp.  The only way to defeat Voldemort and his minions was to find and destroy all of the horcruxes. With the help of Ron and Hermione, they were able to evade the Death Eaters and destroy Voldemort once and for all!