An extra boost of laughter, excitement and outdoor education filled this week as Camp Crescent Moon celebrated its 45th year with its annual session in Pacific Palisades.
It is considered the nation's first and oldest summer camp for children with sickle cell disease between the ages of 8 and 14, and many children from Los Angeles and around the country attend. It's partnered with the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of Southern California.
On Monday, President and CEO Mary Brown said they have about 85 campers participating this year, up from 80 in 2011.
"We lose about 10 percent of the children due to the illness," said the camp's director.
Sickle cell disease which changes normal, round red blood cells into cells that can be shaped like crescent moons. Sickled cells can get stuck and block blood vessels, which stops the oxygen from getting through, causing infections, pain, and even stroke and anemia. However, many people are able to have a very good quality of life by learning to manage the disease.
Amanda Shelton, Kimberly Washington and Lisa Washington, former campers now counselors from the L.A. area, said they are functioning sickle cell adults and enjoy coming back to teach the children about the disease.
Portia Ragin, a camp counselor who comes from Atlanta, GA, said her father has sickle cell disease.
"I just feel like I'm giving back to everything that affects him every day," she said.
Brown said they have 47 staffers at the camp, which includes a medical team of volunteer nurses, doctors, social workers and counselors - some with sickle cell disease and some who do not. She said the counselors volunteering with the disease are called "palanca," which in Spanish means sacrifice.
It costs approximately $100,000 for the camp to use the park for a week in the summer, Brown said, and they rely on cash and in-kind donations from their contributors. A charity auction was held at Amoeba Music in Hollywood to benefit the camp.
"We're on a shoe-string budget," she said. "I'd like to get a $5 million endowment for the program. We put a lot of effort into this project to make it happen. It's served as a model for other sickle cell camps."
For more information about Camp Crescent Moon and how to donate and volunteer, visit their website.