MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Several Marines from various units on station volunteered time out of their weekend Friday and Saturday to help get Camp Not-A-Choo running at the Yuma County Sheriff's Posse Arena.
This is the first time the camp for children with severe asthma has been held in Yuma, although similar camps are held in larger cities annually.
The Marines were recruited to put up the two tents in which the kids would set up their sleeping bags for the night, but ended up doing a little extra.
"I was very impressed with them. They got here early, before the tents arrived and some of them were really motivated and cleaned the (bathroom) without being asked," said Tiffany Banks, camp director. "Then, they picked up all the trash in the area without being asked. The Marines weren't even from the same units, but when the tents did get here, they all teamed up and got the job done very quickly. That was very impressive to me."
One Marine stayed the whole weekend and was individually recognized by Banks. Lance Cpl. Travis Cormier, personnel clerk, Marine Aircraft Group-13, helped set up and then stayed to help take the kids through the various activities.
"He was great. I mean, he stayed here the whole time and whatever we needed done, he was on it," said Banks.
"It makes me feel great to be able to help these kids have a good time and experience what it's like to go camping. I know it has to be hard not being able to do some things that other kids get to do without any worries," explained Cormier. "To give them this opportunity to be here in the outdoors with horses and dogs, doing some fun activities feels great."
The kids also enjoyed a campfire, making crafts, a relay race and more, said Banks.
"We wanted to start a camp that gives kids an opportunity to have fun in a camp environment while learning how to better maintain their asthma," said Banks. "Many kids in our community can't go to camps because other camps aren't equipped to take children with asthma. This gives parents relief that their kids will be safe."
The difference between Camp Not-A-Choo and other camps in town is the staff.
"We have several doctors and nurses on site who specialize in asthma, so we're ready to treat anything that might come up," said Banks.
Several organizations in the Yuma community helped to make the camp happen as well.
"Saddles of Joy came out and gave the kids a chance to ride horses. Horses are a big allergin because they have a lot of dander and they hang out in a dusty environment. The Yuma 4-H club brought out some dogs for the kids to play with," said Banks. "The purpose of bringing these animals here is to show kids that it's all right to be around horses and it's all right to pet dogs if they manage their medication well."
The camp had a smaller turnout than Banks had planned on but it worked out for the best, she said.
"We wanted to have a small group so we could get a feel for how we want to run the camp. We were able to manage and control some situations that we didn't expect," she explained.
Banks, who is already looking forward to next year's camp, was pleased with the support the first one received, she said.
"We had help from the Yuma community, parents and the Marines, so it was a very successful team effort," she said.