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Camp Wabi Puts Kids on Track for Healthy Lives

Mayo Clinic camp offers lifestyle guidance, summer fun

KIDS AT CAMP WABI TAKE PART IN A HOST OF TRADITIONAL SUMMER CAMP ACTIVITIES, FROM BOATING AND SWIMMING TO HIKING AND MAKING CRAFTS.
KIDS AT CAMP WABI TAKE PART IN A HOST OF TRADITIONAL SUMMER CAMP ACTIVITIES, FROM BOATING AND SWIMMING TO HIKING AND MAKING CRAFTS.

“I’m glad you had this camp, because it helped me become the best version of myself. People won’t bully me at school and call me fat. I’m very thankful.”

Hearing young teenagers say these words is bittersweet as a nurse. I’m crushed that so many kids today only see themselves as a reflection of what advertisers tell them is beautiful, yet I also burst with pride as I see them increase their self-esteem, gain self-love, and make lasting changes towards healthy lifestyles.

Being part of Camp Wabi since 2011 has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve done during my career at Mayo Clinic Health System. Along with the YMCA of Eau Claire, our two organizations have forged a partnership that provides an amazing camp experience for adolescents who deal with obesity.

Camp Wabi is held at Camp Manitou on the shores of beautiful Long Lake, near New Auburn. Campers live in rustic cabins and use the beautiful northwoods outdoors as a playground surrounded by a crystal-clear waterfront, athletic fields, and woods.

Camp Wabi is not a weight-loss camp, but works at teaching and empowering campers to make healthy lifestyle choices. Campers spend one hour a day with Mayo Clinic Health System nutritionists, behavioral health specialists, and physical therapists, learning healthy lifestyle habits in a fun, interactive setting. The rest of the day is spent making new friends and creating lifelong memories filled with traditional camp activities, such as archery, boating, swimming, crafts, and the infamous Mud Hike. Kids feel safe and comfortable being alongside their peers allowing them to build self-confidence and make long-term relationships. It is an honor to be part of watching and helping these children take what is sometimes a first step toward learning and – inevitably – living a healthier lifestyle.

Many days, I am moved to tears – tears of joy and gratitude for what we are able to do and tears of pride in the courage I see in our campers take on this life-changing experience. I watch them learn ways to change behavior, interact with and support others dealing with the same issues, and take part in a typical summer camp program.

I am so proud of each and every camper who has taken the first step by attending camp, and I am left speechless when they leave ready to take on the world with an entire new set of skills and sense of being.

This year, Camp Wabi runs Aug. 6-13. For more information about the camp, visit campwabi.org, or call (715) 836-8460.


This was made by

Joni Gilles  author

Joni Gilles, is a wellness director at Mayo Clinic Health System, has more than 20 years of nursing experience and has been a Camp Wabi director since its inception in 2011. Mayo Clinic Health System is a community partner of Chippewa Valley Family.