This summer camp might seem like any other, until you meet its campers.
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Whether it’s chasing frogs, scaling the climbing wall, or arts and crafts, everything about the Albert and Ann Deshur JCC Rainbow Day Camp seems typical — until you learn about the campers.

Summer camp is considered a rite of passage for many children, but we often forget that it can be inaccessible to kids who are sick or living with a disability.

Designed for children with medical conditions that require special attention, like cancer or sickle-cell disease, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, camp keeps nurses and doctors on staff so the kids truly have the best chance at "getting to be a kid for a day" for two days each year.


Counselor David, camper Alex. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

Siblings, who can sometimes be overlooked when their brother or sister needs more attention or care, are also invited.

They get the chance to totally let loose, an opportunity they don't always have when medical bills are high and private camp isn't always an option.

Only child? No problem — they can bring along a BFF.

"We’re used to dealing with a spectrum of needs for each kid," says Rainbow Day Camp director Lenny Kass.

Taking each kid’s unique challenges into account, the camp is committed to creating an experience that allows any kid in attendance to participate, no matter their limitations.

Scooter campers: Melvin, Adam and Memphis. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

But can a single camp experience really impact the kids, or is it just fun and games?

While an illness like cancer can really crush a child’s spirit, making connections at camp and embracing new experiences helps many of the kids walk away feeling lighter.

"There was a child in the clinic [who didn’t] speak much," Kass remembered. "He would hardly talk at all. Here at camp ... [we] literally could not keep him quiet."

Pool campers: Melvin and friend. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

There are many stories just like that, of kids who left Rainbow Day Camp with an outlook very different from where they began. And that's the magic of a camp like this — these kids are more than their illnesses, and creating a space for them to be themselves can do wonders.

Dr. David Margolis, a regular fixture at the camp, noted that it’s not just the kids who experience these transformations either. "This is soul food for the staff," he said.

"Some have gone on to become medical students and residents here."

Camper Athena (this was her last day of treatment!) and Dr. Stephanie. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

Parents, too, find joy in seeing their kids come out of their shells, living as children instead of as "patients."

As passionate as he is about supporting kids with diseases, Kass and his team are still invested in a future where a place like Rainbow Day Camp won’t be needed.

"We’d never have to have a camp because there’d be no kids with cancer," he said. "I hope it will be in my lifetime."

For now, he's content with "making even one child’s day phenomenal."

Making a difference in someone’s life can be as simple as that.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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