NKFM Kids Camp is a summer tradition

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published July 23, 2019

 Warren resident Sadie Sarters, who in 2018 underwent a kidney transplant, plans to attend the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s  YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton July 21-26.

Warren resident Sadie Sarters, who in 2018 underwent a kidney transplant, plans to attend the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton July 21-26.

Photo provided by the Prayers for Sadie Facebook page

 Warren resident Xavier Martin, who received a kidney transplant at age 6, enjoys the arts and  crafts activities at the National Kidney Foundation  of Michigan’s YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton.

Warren resident Xavier Martin, who received a kidney transplant at age 6, enjoys the arts and crafts activities at the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton.

Photo provided by the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan

 Grosse Pointe Farms resident Shelby McMillan is attending the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton July 21-26.

Grosse Pointe Farms resident Shelby McMillan is attending the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton July 21-26.

Photo provided by the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan

METRO DETROIT — YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton is bustling with activity this week as a group of enthusiastic campers are swimming, boating, horseback riding, zip lining, hiking and more.

This week celebrates the 33rd year that the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, or NKFM, has hosted Kids Camp at YMCA Camp Copneconic. With various programs and services, the NKFM’s mission is to prevent kidney disease and improve the quality of life for those living with it.

This year’s camp is scheduled for July 21-26, and is for children ages 8-16 who have chronic kidney disease, are on dialysis or who have a kidney transplant. The annual camp is designed to give the children a chance to enjoy the outdoors, bonfires, and arts and crafts despite their health conditions. Family members do not stay at the camp.

Through fundraising efforts, generous donations and sponsorships, the NKFM is able to provide the camp at no cost to participants. Volunteer medical personnel monitor the campers on-site and provide medications and treatments. Children who are on dialysis spend a half-day at Fresenius Kidney Care in Flint, where staff come in on their day off to handle dialysis and care for the children.

Carter Middle School student Sadie Sarters, 13, is among the kids who will have a blast at camp this year. The Warren resident first attended the NKFM’s Kids Camp in 2017 and will return for her second time this year. Frog hunting, tea parties and learning how to start a campfire to toast marshmallows were among her favorite activities two years ago. And as for zip lining, “I feel like I’m up in the air and I can fly.”

Sadie is glad to know there is a camp like this for children like her.

“It’s helping kids get away from their conditions,” she said.

Sadie missed camp in 2018 because she underwent a kidney transplant at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

“I’ve been feeling great,” said Sadie, who has relied on family members for support.

Lorielle Sarters said that her daughter began having health issues in 2016 and was eventually diagnosed with stage 5 kidney failure. She soon began dialysis treatments until she received her kidney transplant. Lorielle wanted to give her daughter her own kidney, but she was not a good match.

“She’s been doing very well,” her mom said, adding that her daughter will have to remain on anti-rejection medicine for the rest of her life. “It’s been a long, long road. Lots of ups and downs and doctor’s appointments.”

The family has a Facebook page “Prayers for Sadie” that anyone can join.

“We have people praying all over the country,” Lorielle said. “Everytime we ask for prayers, it works out for our family.”

Xavier Martin, 12, also of Warren, will mark his second time at camp this year as well. The activity he enjoys the most is arts and crafts. Making new friends and the giant swing also are highlights.

“It’s a good camp,” the Wolfe Middle School student said, adding that he’s looking forward to seeing the other campers again.

“He talks about it a lot,” his mom, Latoya Martin, said.

Xavier was born with renal failure and had to be on dialysis since he was a baby.

“It was a struggle. He had to have many surgeries. He was hospitalized,” Latoya said. “We did whatever we had to do to make it through to get the proper procedures he needed.”

At the age of 6, Xavier underwent a transplant and received a kidney.

“He’s doing good,” Latoya said.

Shelby McMillan, of Grosse Pointe Farms, is attending her second camp this year. On July 19, the “very excited” 10-year-old started packing for her trip. Her first Kids Camp experience occurred last year.

“I made a lot of friends. We get to go to the lake, climb and go down slides,” said McMillan, who will begin attending Brownell Middle School in the fall. “My favorite part was when we got to go kayaking.”

“(The camp) makes them feel like they don’t have any kind of disease,” said her mom, Shantrel McMillan.

Shelby McMillan has not undergone a kidney transplant, but might have to in the future. She first became ill several years ago with what the family thought was a stomach bug. But she was hospitalized and diagnosed with kidney disease at age 3. She soon began 23 hours of dialysis each day. Shelby McMillan was able to do dialysis at home, and the hours went down to 10 hours a day and then to eight.

“She was very resilient,” Shantrel McMillan said. “It just became the norm. Our motto is, ‘We live with it, but not in it.’ We try to make life as normal as possible, but it’s hard.”

To stay healthy, Shelby McMillan eats a healthy diet, drinks plenty of water, takes medication and exercises regularly.

For more information about the NKFM’s Kids Camp, visit nkfm.org/kidscamp.