Couple turns their big day into a big gift for kids

Dishes, silverware, small appliances, sheets, towels. Home essentials like these appear on nearly all wedding gift registries. But for Shaquita Bell, MD, a primary care pediatrician at Seattle Children’s, and her fiance, Marc Stamm Boyer, giving their wedding guests a wish list of stuff for themselves just didn’t feel right.

“We are at a point in our lives where we have the things we need and the things we want,” says Boyer. “It seemed silly to say, ‘Hey, you know how we have all this silverware? We should totally get some more.’”

But knowing that guests might insist on giving a gift, they put their heads together to come up with another option: “registering” for donations to Seattle Children’s.

“If our guests want to spend money on our wedding, we’d rather it go toward something inherently good,” says Boyer.

Instead of lugging packages to the couple’s Camano Island wedding, this September guests will support two parts of Children’s that mean the most to Bell and Boyer: Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC), where Bell works as an attending physician, and Stanley Stamm Summer Camp, where the couple met.

Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic serves diverse community

OBCC first opened its doors in 1970 in Seattle’s Central District, aiming to provide quality pediatric care to an underserved population.

Bell has worked there for seven years and loves every minute of it.

“I have a strong desire to work in communities similar to the one I come from,” says Bell. “Odessa serves people with diverse backgrounds and those with limited resources who are uninsured and underinsured – and those were some of the barriers I faced growing up.”

What she likes most about OBCC is the people she works with and the patients and families she sees. “We see patients whose parents and grandparents came here as patients,” says Bell. “I think it’s amazing that this clinic has served generations of families.”

Summer camp love connection

Boyer, a freelance art director, has been volunteering at Stamm Camp since he was 14. His grandfather is legendary Seattle Children’s heart specialist Stanley Stamm, MD, who founded the camp in 1967 to give children with serious illness the opportunity to join in on the fun of summer camp.

Bell caught Boyer’s eye while volunteering at camp two years ago.

“He was volunteering as a cabin counselor, and I was running around chasing 60 boys [as the medical director of the boys’ cabins],” says Bell. “Somewhere between singing camp songs and throwing kids in the lake, we just clicked.”

Each August, about 100 campers age 6 to 14 and 200 volunteers descend on Stamm Camp (held at the Sunset Lake Campground) for a week of typical summer camp activities: swimming, fishing, horseback riding, Stammcakes (pancakes with various leftovers from the kitchen) and even a camp party for older campers.

Michele Rebert, Stamm Camp coordinator, says what makes Stamm Camp unique is that it’s for kids with any chronic medical condition that doesn’t allow them to go to most other summer camps – from cystic fibrosis to Down syndrome to severe respiratory disease.

“We take kids that most camps can’t because they aren’t equipped to handle their medical needs,” says Rebert.

Stamm Camp’s dedicated volunteers, including members of Children’s staff, provide these kids with the extra support they need.

Stamm Camp lets kids be kids

Bell and Boyer appreciate that Stamm Camp gives kids the chance to forget about their diagnosis and just be kids.

“A lot of these kids who have a G-tube or a tracheotomy hesitate about getting in the lake or riding a horse,” says Bell. “But for me, the moment I see a kid get in the lake and click into ‘being a kid’ mode instead of being scared of what they can’t do is very rewarding.”

Stamm Camp is subsidized so families don’t have to pay a fee (families are asked to give a $75 donation, if they can). One of Stamm Camp’s main fundraisers – the Stanley Stammpede Bike-a-thon – takes place on San Juan Island this weekend.

Learn more about Stamm Camp and OBCC, or make a donation in honor of Bell and Boyer.

To arrange an interview with Shaquita and Marc, contact the Seattle Children’s public relations team at 206-987-4500 or [email protected].

First photo courtesy of Jenny Jimenez.