Starlight Performance Camp helps sick kids shine

UAlberta medical students host free performing arts camp for kids with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

Ross Neitz - 26 June 2017

Kids living with chronic illness or disability will embrace their inner star at a free summer camp hosted by University of Alberta medical students.

Starlight Performance Camp will help sick kids discover and learn the world of performing arts through workshops in gymnastics, dance, cheerleading and fashion. Up to 40 kids will experience life in the spotlight at the camp, which will be held at Ortona Gymnastics on July 8.

According to camp co-leader Andrée Vincent, the kids will gain confidence and learn that their health condition does not need to define them.

"Some of the kids who are attending have let go or quit activities because of their conditions," said Vincent, a second-year medical student at the U of A. "We really want them to find out that they can still perform in those disciplines, even though they have health concerns that impact them."

Vincent and fellow camp co-leader Roxanne Pinson-a fourth-year U of A medical student about to begin a residency in pediatrics-are sharing what they love. Vincent was heavily involved in cheerleading and gymnastics for much of her life, competing in the World Cheerleading Championships in 2013 and spending four years on the Edmonton Eskimos stunt team. Pinson danced competitively for more than a decade and spent several years as an instructor and coach.

"We want to give back and involve the kids in what we love," said Vincent. "For me, being able to perform in front of people and feel like I'm getting better at a sport, it gave me a lot of confidence. That's what we want to bring out in the kids who may feel restricted by their illness or their condition in regular life."

Alongside Vincent and Pinson will be a staff of up to 20 volunteers-many of them fellow medical students-to ensure the camp runs smoothly. A supervising doctor will also be on hand in the case of any medical difficulties.

While the camp is only in its first year, organizers say work is already moving ahead to ensure it continues in the future. Their first priority is making it a positive experience now.

"We definitely want to see the kids happy. That's what means the most to us-seeing if the kids have fun."

The Starlight Performance Camp is supported through an Alberta Medical Association / Canadian Medical Association Emerging Leaders in Health Promotion grant along with additional funding from the U of A's Medical Students' Association. The camp is also supported by Ortona Gymnastics which is giving free use of its facility.

More information about the Starlight Performance Camp can be found on its website.

The Emerging Leaders in Health Promotion grant program

The Emerging Leaders in Health Promotion grant program provides funding to help medical students and resident physicians conceive and implement health promotion projects in support of the development of their CanMEDS/Family Medicine core competencies, particularly health advocacy.

Jointly sponsored by the Alberta Medical Association (Health Issues Council) and the Canadian Medical Association, ELiHP projects facilitate the growth of physician leadership and advocacy skills in a mentored environment while enhancing the well-being of the general Alberta population through education, advocacy or community service.