Camp Docs Keep Campers Healthy

A lot has changed since Margo Pruitt first moved into the Canyon as the Echo Valley nurse in the summer of 1996. Her husband, Chandler, was in his second year as the Echo Valley director, and she was pregnant with their third child, with a toddler and a baby under wing. Pruitt spent the summer caring for campers and laying the groundwork for what would become a gold standard among youth camp medical programs.

“There wasn’t anything but a box of Band-Aids when I walked in,” Pruitt jokes.

At the time, Echo Valley and Singing Hills each had one nurse who watched over the 300 and 170 campers, respectively, for the entire summer with limited resources and few protocols in place. Now, each camp has a rotational schedule of registered nurses who spend one or two weeks at a time in the clinic. College-aged healthcare assistants are assigned to each clinic for the entire summer to provide continuity as the nurses rotate. A camp doctor is always on call in the Canyon, rotating every week.

Over the course of 25 years, Pruitt has developed two well-stocked clinics, a thorough camp nursing manual with clear policies and procedures, and a roster of reliable healthcare practitioners—many of whom return to the Canyon each summer to serve. Each cabin is equipped with a first aid kit, and the clinics have a pharmacy of basic prescription and over-the-counter medicines to treat common illnesses.

When campers arrive on the first day of each session, the RN checks in each child’s medication personally and meets with the camper’s parents. All medications are kept locked in the clinics and are distributed by the medical staff only. Records of campers’ physicians and dentists or orthodontists are also kept in each clinic.

“We’re telling kids about Christ and how to have a relationship with him, so we want the clinic to be a place that’s really reflective of that—kind, servant-hearted, loving the kids, making them comfortable, and making sure that they’re cared for,” Pruitt said. “We want that to be an extension of the big mission of what we’re trying to do with kids—that relationship-based ministry.”

“There wasn’t anything but a box of Band-Aids when I walked in.”

Pruitt interviews and hand-selects her medical team every year, and she is serious about their qualifications. Each medical professional must have a current license with the State of Texas. Doctors must be either family practitioners, pediatricians, or emergency room doctors, ensuring that they are experienced in meeting the medical needs of children.

“You continue to see Margo trying to get the best people she can, and making sure that they continue to stay up to date with protocols and that sort of thing,” said Dr. Matt Hoermann, who has been part of the LLYC medical program for 18 years. “She’s constantly working on that, and that’s pretty amazing.”

Christa Montague is an RN in the Dallas area and a longtime LLYC healthcare provider, first joining the rotation in the summer of 2013. She said she looks forward to a text from Pruitt asking her to serve at LLYC each year.

“It’s humbling knowing that she knows so many people and continues to give me the privilege to come and work at camp,” Montague said. “Nursing is a calling and being able to use my nursing skills in such an amazing place is a gift from God. Margo listens to the feedback of the clinic staff, and each year the clinic processes have improved. She talks with parents of campers who have more serious or complicated health conditions when they are considering sending their child to camp, and strives to provide a camp opportunity for all campers who want to come.”

“Camp is equipped to handle anything from strep throat to asthma attacks to broken bones or lacerations,” said Kayti Duffie, an RN who began doing nursing rotations in the Canyon in 2004 and helps Pruitt set up both clinics each year. “Often when nurses rotate in from other camps, they are shocked at the level of care and preparedness of our staff and the LLYC clinics.”

Duffie grew up at LLYC and has been part of and benefited from the level of love and care experienced in the Canyon.

“Camp has been a rock in my lifetime,” she said.

“Many of the men and women on full-time leadership have helped shape who I am as a person. So I keep coming back because I’m in a time in life where I want to give back to a place that pours so deeply and so intentionally into others’ lives.”

“Often when nurses rotate in from other camps, they are shocked at the level of care and preparedness of our staff and the LLYC clinics.”

Dr. Laura Hattox Costas gives partial credit to Pruitt and LLYC for helping steer her career path. After sustaining an injury at Echo Valley at the age of 14, she was able to see first-hand the level of care that Pruitt and her staff put into each interaction with a camper.

Costas has served at LLYC on Work Crew, in the Sugar Shack, as a cook, and—for every summer since 2016—as a camp doctor with her husband and three children in tow. In each of those roles, she has seen a common thread.

“[Campers] are well-loved,” Costas said. “There are people looking after them in their cabins, there are people looking after them in the clinics. Everybody has their eye on these kids, and they are never left to fend for themselves.

“There was a time at Family Camp that [my oldest son] drew a picture that said, ‘I love coming to camp because we are well-loved.’ I was like, ‘Wow, he’s six but he really gets that.’ There’s just this overwhelming sense of love and care that is put into the food, and making sure that kids get medicines if they need them, and making sure that any kids with issues are being watched more carefully.”

The love and security felt by campers and staff members at LLYC medical clinics reflect the deliberate choices that Pruitt has made over the past 25 years.

“We have a long history of caring deeply for kids and keeping them safe,” Pruitt said. “At the same time we’re showing them who Christ is and giving them the time of their lives, the best two weeks. We will continue to do that. That is our legacy.”

More from this issue

The Stars at Night

Deep in the heart of Texas’ hill country, the stars aren’t competing with light pollution from cities and suburbs.

Therapy Is a Camp Activity, Too

Hilary Monford has been partnering with Laity Lodge Family Camp to offer accessible counseling and therapy to families during a particularly difficult year.

How to Retreat When We Can’t Go to Retreats

Kathleen Norris reflects on the urge to retreat and the unique challenges of this year.

The Canyon Comeback

After months of quiet, the Canyon is seeing people again. You’ve been missed.

View the full issue and subscribe to get the free quarterly print edition of Echoes delivered to your doorstep.