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Dr. Jake’s First Summer Camp Experience

Having never been to sleepaway camp I really didn’t know what to expect coming to Jacobs Camp.

I heard words like magic, incredible, life-changing, memories, but I didn’t really understand what any of that meant. The night before coming I spent hours reading about common injuries and ailments, how to reduce a fracture, reviewing concussion protocols, wondering what resources I would have. What I came to realize when I got here is that while I’ve been treating kids for various ailments, day and night, is that the actual medicine is just a minor part of what I would be doing.

I realized that while I was volunteering, I was actually given a gift to be able to come here and experience magic happen. I didn’t have to worry about a clinic schedule that was overbooked, finding time to take care of my patients in the ICU, charting for hours and hours, or billing. It brought to life the reason why I went into medicine, to help heal children and build bonds that would last a lifetime. My heart is so happy to be able to take care of children the best I know how, interact with and watch counselors become leaders and develop life skills that will serve them wherever their life takes them. The outpouring of love that I have received has been tremendous. The endless supply of snacks was nice as well. I was able to be a doctor, while at the same time be a kid again.

Thank you for trusting me to take care of these precious children.

Dr. Jake also wrote a letter to our counselors and Solelim participants that was shared last night. The full text is below.

This was the first time in my life that I have ever been to sleep away camp. I didn’t know what to expect, who would be caring for the children, what one even does at camp. You young adults have opened a whole new world for me.

Caring for 2 children is extremely difficult, caring for many, before this week, I thought was impossible. Each mealtime I walk around the dining room and breezeway to check in with the children, but also to observe how you all could possibly do such a job.

I’ve been fortunate to interact with the children and staff in the pool, on the fields, in the medical center, and many different parts of this camp and I have to say I’ve been blow away. Y’all have faced challenges this past week that many adults couldn’t handle with grace and composure like y’all have. What you are doing is fun, but it’s also really hard. You are shaping the lives of children and building memories that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.

I know many of you are anxious about what the next day or hour might bring. That’s because you care. That’s because you are passionate about what you do and are leaders. But even the best leaders have their limits. The best leaders know what they don’t know and ask for help. The best leaders have days when they wake up and they’re just not having a great day. The best leaders make mistakes.

Mistakes are actually one of the more important things we do in our lives as long as we’re honest with ourselves, learn from them, and move on. Even doctors make mistakes. I certainly have many times. But as a great mentor of mine once told me, as long as you’re doing the right thing, you can’t go wrong. He told me to do the right thing for people because you don’t know if the next person they meet will.

I’ve seen many of you doing the right thing. I’ve seen you getting campers together and using their mistakes to make positive teachable moments. When things are difficult it doesn’t feel that good. But when things are difficult it makes us appreciate the things that we have taken for granted or not even noticed in the past. You are here because you care. Many of you are here because you love this place so much that you wanted future children to love Jacobs Camp as much as you do. Your love, dedication, and passion is seen.

Take care of each other, check in with each other. Reach out to someone who you’ve maybe never even talked to and ask them what they’re finding difficult or what have they found helpful for them. This is how communities are built and this is how the common bond that we all have by being human beings strengthens. To put it simply, y’all are amazing. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet you, learn about you, take care of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your family. Tomorrow may be my last day at camp, but this is just my beginning at Jacobs Camp. You never know when we’ll meet again.

About the Author

Jake Kleinmahon

Dr. Jake is the Director of Pediatric Heart Transplant and Heart Failure at Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans. He’s originally from Westchester, NY, but proud to call New Orleans home. He and his husband, Thomas, plan to send their children, Isabel (5y) and Connor (3y) to Jacobs Camp for years to come.


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