Children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses and their families face a mountain of challenges that most of us cannot imagine. From battling poor self-esteem to disfiguring surgical procedures, from adverse medication side-effects to social isolation and depression, chronic illness can virtually wipe out one’s childhood and the everyday wonders of life that many of us take for granted.

Edward J. Gross, M.D. is both a facial plastic surgeon and a member of the community. Dr. Gross feels blessed to have a successful practice and is committed to giving back and offering his services to improve the lives of the people who need him most.

Earlier this summer, Dr. Gross was invited to donate his medical expertise for a weekend at Camp Boggy Creek, a year-round sleepaway camp for children with serious illnesses and their families. The invitation came from Karen Bringelsen, M.D., the camp medical director and mother of one of Dr. Gross’ rhinoplasty patients. Dr. Gross and his girlfriend Tiffany did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity.

“It’s a unique and great opportunity for these kids, many of whom are too ill or disabled to attend regular summer camps because their medical needs are so severe,” says Dr. Gross.

What Is Camp Boggy Creek?

Camp Boggy Creek was founded in 1996 by Paul Newman and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, with one intention in mind: that every child, no matter their illness, could experience the transformational spirit and friendships that go hand in hand with camp defined by compassion, laughter, and acceptance.

The camp is specifically designed for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses and allows them to enjoy the activities of a “traditional” camp safely. Between early morning swims and evening campfires, children whose lives have been a series of medical procedures and hospital stays are transformed into just “kids.” They have a chance to be with others coping with the same illness or condition and realize that they are not alone.

Camp Boggy Creek is a permanent, year-round facility that has made it possible for children with serious illnesses to enjoy a camp experience in a safe, medically-sound environment. Located just a short drive from Orlando, Florida, the 232-acre camp serves children ages 7-16 who’ve
 been diagnosed with chronic or life-threatening conditions.

Dr. Gross in Action

Throughout the summer and fall months, each weekend at camp is centered on a specific medical condition or illness. Expenses for the weekend are paid for, and all the medical care on the property is provided pro bono to the entire family.

“I was part of a volunteer physician group manning the clinic on campus to take care of the kids (or family members) who need checkups or who may have minor injuries including custom scrapes, wound treatment, laceration care, or who may require general medical care or minor plastic surgery,” says Dr. Gross. “All the kids have some form of medical disability or deformity or a medical condition that might draw attention to them from kids at a normal camp.”

The camp provides a secure and exciting camp experience for children from throughout Florida suffering from:

  • Arthritis / Rheumatic
  • Severe asthma or pulmonary conditions
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Hemophilia / Bleeding disorders / Cardiac illnesses
  • Immune deficiency
  • Gastrointestinal illnesses
  • Transplants

According to Dr. Gross, the success of the camp depends on the doctors who volunteer their time. “It’s a lot of fun for the doctors because the kids are so appreciative of just being there,” he says. “By volunteering, we know we’re making a difference for the kids to be able to attend the camp. The kids say they like going to the camp because nobody judges them there.”

Thanks to Dr. Gross and the spirit of generosity of many physicians like him, Camp Boggy Creek can continue its mission to enrich the lives of children with severe illnesses and their families, and to allow them to forget the word “no” for a little while and embrace the promise of “yes.”