Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A simple way to do kids with special needs—and your skin!—good

"Every child deserves to know what it feels like to just be a kid—to swim, hike and play with others their age...." That was an awesome (and very relatable) quote I read at an event I attended the other night honoring a camp that hosts kids with skin disease. The event was sponsored by CVS/pharmacy (I'm a blogger ambassador for the CVS Caremark All Kids Can program), and it was all kinds of inspiring.

Located in Livermore, San Francisco, Camp Wonder is a medically-staffed summer program that hosts children ages 7 to 16 from around the country who have serious and sometimes fatal skin diseases. It takes place the last week of June, and is staffed by residents from top local hospitals and volunteers, many of whom used to be campers. Founder Francesca Tenconi herself had a serious skin disease as a girl, and was once in isolation for 11 months; she lost 85 percent of her skin. For her 16th birthday she asked friends and family to forego gifts and instead donate funds to help her create the Children's Skin Disease Foundation. A couple years later, Camp Wonder was born.

Francesca spoke of children with blistering, disfiguring skin bullied and ridiculed at school. She spoke of art classes in which kids drew pictures without faces because they don't want to be seen. And she spoke of the happiness they found at camp, where they find acceptance and a whole lot of fun. Cindy Kee, a senior brand manager for Cetaphil, volunteered for a week and told a story about the camp's prom night.

"A lot of kids don't get asked to prom," she said. Galderma Laboratories, the parent company of Cetaphil, donated dresses. Girls got their makeup and hair done and corsages. "There was a girl in my cabin in a wheelchair, and every year she gets out of the wheelchair and dances on her knees," Cindy said. "Well,  other kids got out of their chairs and danced on their knees, and soon all the kids were dancing on their knees."

Camp Wonder is free for campers, and depends on donations. Cetaphil has been a generous sponsor, donating more than $100,000 to help fund the camp (it also supplies a grant for kids to get products throughout the year to care for their skin). Through October 31, of every special-edition jar of $14.99 Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream sold exclusively at CVS/pharmacy (in stores and online, here), $1 will go to Camp Wonder. Former camper and current camper Jassamine Domino designed the label.

If you already use the moisturizer, this is good reason to stock up. And if you don't, give it a go. As a magazine editor who works on beauty articles, I know that dermatologists are always recommending it because it's gentle and it works. In fact, the stuff is so soothing to skin that children at the camp literally bathe in tubs of it.

This is one of a series of posts sponsored by CVS Caremark All Kids Can, a commitment to helping children of all abilities be the best they can be. Like them on Facebook!


  1. That sounds just awesome. Everyone deserves to have fun with their friends.

  2. As a person with psoriasis and a special needs mom, I want to give an extra big thank you for this post, Ellen. Having scary looking skin is not fun, even in October. I am glad I didn't get psoriasis until puberty but it really was to have people look at me funny at any age, awful entirely. Yay Camp Wonder, yay Cetaphil! I will go get another bottle.


Thanks for sharing!

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