OT Camp a Winning Hit with Kids and SMU Students

Appeared in: Put Me Back Together

No matter how old you are or what you do for a living, you are always using your hands.  When there is something different about your hands, you may not be able to engage in activities the way most people do.  Imagine being a five year old child, who was born with a hand or an upper limb difference, playing on the playground with other kids.  It may not be the playground equipment that limits this child but rather the peceived social barrier by the child or others. 

While some kids with hand differences are fully independent and have no difficulty engaging in play and negotiating playground equipment, they may do so differently.  Sometimes it is not the hand difference that limits this child with hand differences but rather social acceptance or inacceptance.

That is why Ginny Gibosn, MS, OTR/L, CHT Assistant Professor in the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) program at Samuel Merritt University and Connie Cyras, a parent, created Camp Winning Hands, a resource for parents and "a place for kids just to be kids."  For parents Camp Winning Hands is a place to maintain a support network and outreach to new parents of children with hand differences.  This year 26 children with congenital hand differences attended the hand camp with their families. 

"Camp Winning Hands is an overnight camping experience that provides children with congenital upper limb differences an opportunity to play and explore in a safe environment," explains Gibson, camp director.  "The hand camp also supports families by providing education and emotional support through connections with other families."

Camp Winning Hands, located at Camp Arroyo in Livermore, California, is for children from five to ten years of age.  The three-day camp is staffed with professionals and volunteers from Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland, Shriners Hospitals for Children, and Samuel Merritt University (SMU) students who have finished their studies in the MOT program. 

"Our volunteers help by creating a supportive and encouraging environment for the kids, along with kid-friendly adventures to empower children with hand differences to address daily physical, emotional and social challenges together," adds Gibson. 

There is no cost for the hand camp; it is partially funded by The Taylor Family Foundation, Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland and Shriners Hospital for Children Northern California.  The first annual camp took place in August 2010 and will become an annual summer event. 

"Children attending Camp Winning Hands experience opportunities to challenge themselves and have new adventures in a setting where differences seem less like differences," said Gibson.

Activities have included:

  • Carnival Night
  • Rock Climbing
  • Sing-Alongs
  • Animal Interaction
  • Sports
  • Games
  • Crafting
  • Swimming
  • Nature Walks
  • Ping Pong
  • Disco
  • Bingo


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