by Justin Williams
(Wisconsin Dells) - "WIKIDAS stands for Camp in Wisconsin for Kids with Asthma." It represents Dr. J. Brent Kooistra's life–long labor of love. The doctor began Camp WIKIDAS in 1982, as an alternative for kids whose true personalities may be hidden behind their efforts to hide their condition at traditional camps. Dr. Kooistra explains, "Sometimes they go to these camps and they kinda hide their asthma, they don't take their medicines, they kinda don't use their inhaler, and they end up running into difficulties. Here, all the kids have asthma, so they're more comfortable being around other children with the condition and being part of a group who recognizes that they may have some symptoms kinda reduces that stigma and allows them to be active participants."
Ashley Jensen is a veteran camper. "Kids who have it are normal kids 'n' they're exactly like everyone else 'n' there's a lotta people who have it and so you shouldn't feel un–natural or un–normal."
Camp WIKIDAS is comprised of medical staffers trained to attend to asthmatics. Twice a year, the group corrals campers into the Camp Waubeek campground in Wisconsin Dells, where counselors adapt activities appropriately for those afflicted by asthma, adding encouragement for apprehensive attendees.
Val Croissant is the director of Camp Waubeek. "Everyone's very supportive. Like, we hiked up a ravine to go sledding today, and everyone cheered everyone on and we all waited for everyone to get to the top of the ravine and it's something where we challenge them and it's just great because they can do it."
Camp WIKIDAS also offers a summer camp experience. Kids ages 8 through 13 –who use daily asthma medications—are eligible to participate in both camps.