Founded by Dr. Michael F. Zambie in 1987, MedCamps of Louisiana began as a one week camp for 13 children with severe asthma and allergies on the campus of Northeast Louisiana University. Since that time we have grown steadily in numbers and have expanded programming.
Our program was initially developed as part of the YMCA of Northeast Louisiana and was known as YMCA MedCamps. The YMCA gave MedCamps an instant funding and administrative infrastructure. In 1988 a partnership with the Presbytery of the Pines was formed, and the MedCamps program had a permanent home in which to operate at Camp Alabama, located 5 miles north of the I-20 corridor, between Monroe and Ruston, in Sibley, Louisiana.
The word quickly spread, and MedCamps found support from all over the community. Local nurses, like Susan Anderson and Ann Reeves, donated their time and expertise to ensure a safe environment for all who attended camp. John O'neal was tremendous in his early financial support. Thelma Oetgen (former member of the Glenwood Board of Trustees) was instrumental in soliciting donations of medicines and equipment from Glenwood Regional Medical Center and other area hospitals. The parents of campers got involved too. Jim Huggins' construction and architectural expertise was invaluable as construction projects and camp improvements ensued.
Organizations and corporations began to contribute time and money to improve Camp Alabama. Cabins were refurbished, air conditioned and made wheelchair accessible. Roads and sidewalks were paved, and accessible bridges were built. The old camp chapel that had tended to children's spiritual needs, was remodeled into a modern camp infirmary, and now attends to the camper's special medical needs. In 1990, Horseback riding is one of the highlights of the week when MedCamps went knocking on doors in need of a wheelchair accessible pool, John Grantham, Bill Morrow and Riverwood Paper Company answered. Many organizations supported many other improvements at the camp during these early years, and every contribution helped MedCamps grow.
By 1995, the community's support of the program had grown substantially, and it was determined that further growth could only be achieved as an autonomous organization. A Board of Directors was recruited, by-laws were drafted, and MedCamps of Louisiana was incorporated. We are now an agency of the United Way of Northeast Louisiana, and are currently pursuing accreditation with the American Camping Association.
Since 1987, MedCamps has grown tremendously. We have grown from 13 kids for 1 week in 1987 to 350 children over a 10-week period in 2006 — from serving one chronic illness in 1987 to serving more than 16 in 2006. Estimates show that by the summer of 2007 MedCamps will have provided, since its inception, one week of camp to over 3,500 children with varying illnesses and disabilities living throughout Louisiana.
MedCamps of Louisiana, Inc. has never charged a fee to attend camp and with the continued support of the community, corporations and civic organizations, and the continued success of our fundraising events, we hope we will be able to make this statement year after year.