EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — Fourteen-year old Machayla Helland is from a small town in North Dakota. She admits going away to a summer camp in northwest Wisconsin, 600 miles away, was a bit intimidating.
“I was nervous,” Machayla says. “I thought that it was a good idea to be able to go there.”
Camp Wabi, near New Auburn, is a camp designed for young people struggling with weight issues, but it is not a weight loss boot camp. Machayla does not even know how much weight she lost at camp. Only her parents know. That’s because the number on the scale is not the No. 1 priority at Camp Wabi.
“It’s a health and wellness camp,” says Machayla’s mom, Michelle. “I think it’s awesome.”
Machayla’s parents say their daughter has struggled with weight her entire life. They admit they were taken aback when caring teachers approached them about Camp Wabi.
“At first, it was a slap in the face, but the teacher was really nice about it,” Michelle says. The teacher explained that she, herself, had struggled with weight and had lost 100 pounds, and that she didn’t want Machayla to struggle as an adult as she had.
Once at Wabi, Machayla says she had no complaints about the food, especially her favorite: the grilled pineapple.
“The food was really good at camp. I liked every meal,” Machayla says.
Machayla says Camp Wabi taught her proper portion control, a habit she continues to practice today, and one she has taught her family.
Makayla still keeps in contact with many of her fellow campers, even travelling back to Wisconsin for reunion activities. She gives a lot of credit to her encouraging counselors.
“It felt like we were one big happy family,” Machayla says.
Machayla’s parents say they were constantly reassured through emails and letters that their daughter was in good hands while at Wabi. They were excited to see that she was participating in traditional summer camp activities, including swimming, canoeing, kayaking and the infamous Camp Wabi mud hike.
Gary gets emotional when he talks about sending his daughter so far away and knowing how well they were taking care of her.
“She always talked about the counselors, how one-on-one and personal they were,” Gary says. “It was like she was family. For a parent to put their child in somebody else’s hands that they know nothing about … it’s a great feeling, to know that she’s safe.”
Camp Wabi runs Aug. 6–13. For more information or to register for this year’s camp, call 715-836-8460, or go to campwabi.org.
# # #
Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in 60 communities in Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.
Press ContactDan Lea