There are thousands of children across the Great Lakes region who are unable to attend camp due to a life-threatening illness. But the need for a therapeutic camp for children with chronic illness is great. A growing body of evidence-based research shows that underneath all the fun, children with serious illnesses who attend summer camp experience improved well-being.
North Star Reach is Michigan’s only barrier-free, fully-accessible medical camp serving children with significant health challenges and their families, all at no charge to them. As a member of the SeriousFun Children’s Network, founded by Paul Newman, we are part of a trusted global network of camps and programs for children with serious illnesses.
North Star Reach is not-for-profit organization dependent on private funding to serve every camper entirely free of charge. 100% of all donations directly benefit our camp and programs. Gifts provide incredible, life-changing camp experiences for kids with serious health challenges and their families.
The Need for North Star Reach
Every year, there are thousands of children in the Great Lakes region who are unable to attend regular summer camp due to serious medical conditions. A needs assessment conducted in 2008 confirmed that there are more than 75,000 children in the Great Lakes Region (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ontario, Canada) with serious and life-threatening illnesses (cardiology, gastroenterology, blood disorders, cancer, burns, organ transplants, ventilator dependence) who could be eligible to attend a medically supported camp like North Star Reach. Currently, less than 10% of these children have an opportunity to attend summer camp and for some no programming exists at all.
The Benefits of North Star Reach
Living with a chronic illness is proven to cause stress, anxiety, and depression which increases the risk of new health problems and is shown to worsen symptoms of many ailments. Kids lose a sense of themselves and the ability to control their own lives.
The activities kids learn to conquer at camp leads to an increase in independence and confidence. Encouraged, but not required to try new things, kids gain a sense of control and self-advocacy. They make lasting bonds with other kids facing similar challenges, often for the first time.
These experiences help them develop a sense of community, and a sense of belonging. This gives them hope and purpose, a reason to take better care of themselves today—and in the future. In fact, North Star Reach has many campers who, once sick themselves, are now returning to camp as volunteers and pursuing careers as nurses and doctors.
North Star Reach provides life-changing, year-round programs (at camp and remotely) for children with serious health challenges and their families, free of charge.
About Our Camp
Located on 105 beautiful wooded acres in Pinckney, Michigan, and bordered by two lakes, North Star Reach is a no-cost, medically-sound camp where thousands of children who would otherwise be too sick to go to camp can enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Our state-of-the-art health center, The Observatory, is one of the things that sets us apart.
The clinic includes a fully supplied dispensary and is staffed 24/7 by medical professionals from leading hospitals and medical centers throughout Michigan and Chicago. Capable of managing central lines, providing chemotherapy or dialysis, and so much more, campers can receive the individualized care they need, all without ever leaving camp.
Camp sessions are organized by campers’ medical conditions, allowing kids to meet others just like them. This also allows our medical teams to be fully prepared with the right equipment, supplies, and the expertise to care for our campers. And if an emergency arises that can’t be addressed onsite, a hospital is just 15 minutes away, accessible by ambulance or helicopter.
Knowing that there is such a dedicated and gifted team of medical professionals at camp gives parents peace of mind and a sense of security knowing their kids are safe. For many, it’s the first time their children have been away from them for more than a few hours. This is life altering for families.
Medical Advisory Board
Our Medical Advisory Board, assembled from partner hospital and health systems, continually evaluates the need for additional programs and includes:
Matthew Denenberg, MD, Chair
Chief of Pediatrics, Beaumont Children’s Hospital
Lee Benjamin, MD
Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine & Medical Staff Officer, St. Joseph Mercy Health System
Jacob Bilhartz, MD
Asst. Professor, Gastroenterology and Transplant Hepatology, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital
Roland Chu, MD
Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Children’s Hospital of Michigan
Robert McCurren IV, MD
Regional Vice President, Emergency Physicians Group
Amy Neumann, MSN, RN
Congenital Heart Nurse Navigator, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital
Rebecca Patrias, MD
Medical Director, North Star Reach & Medical Director, Three Chelsea Docs
Alison Tothy, MD
Chief Experience and Engagement Officer, University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital
Donors Make Camp Possible
Since North Star Reach opened in 2016, generous donors have provided life-changing experience to more than 3,500 children with serious illnesses and their families. In 2020, despite the pause in in-person camp programming due to COVID-19, our program excellence continued as our staff and volunteers, with support from donors, responded nimbly and creatively to provide virtual alternatives to in-person summer and family camp programs. The result was an inventive 2020 spring, summer and fall season of programming for children and families that allowed more than 700 campers from a dozen states to connect and have fun in safe, secure online spaces. Our team, supported by amazing volunteers, has continued to evolve these year-round virtual programs through 2021, while preparing our facility to safely welcome campers back to in-person camp as soon as possible.
We are incredibly grateful for your companionship and support during this unprecedented time.
We extend our deepest gratitude to those visionaries without whom the dream of North Star Reach would never have been possible. This group of extraordinary donors contributed vital support with a cumulative gift of $1 million or more long before camp opened in 2016. Their generosity and dedication will be felt and appreciated for generations to come:
- The Ted & Jane Von Voigtlander Foundation
- Vera and Joseph Dresner Foundation
- Mott Golf Classic
- The Jones Family Foundation
- Jackie & Jake Long
- SeriousFun Children’s Network
Here’s a look at the incredible, life-changing impact North Star Reach donors make on the lives of pediatric patients and their families, part of our virtual 2020 “Under the North Star” event: