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July 18, 2023

Camp Aranzazu builds belonging for those with illness, special needs

Original version available on Corpus Christi Caller Times

Written by: Olivia Garrett | July 16, 2023

Across Camp Aranzazu’s 105 acres Wednesday morning, teens looked for dolphins from sail boats in Copano Bay, cast lines baited with shrimp off the pier, shot arrows into targets at the archery station and paused to play with camp pets.

Later, there would be games and crafts and a ropes course.

And, for some, chemotherapy.

Camp Aranzazu serves campers with special needs and chronic illnesses. This week, the camp hosted Teens Living with Cancer, a Driscoll Children's Hospital program for teen oncology and blood disorder patients, some of whom also brought a family member or friend.

Driscoll patient Melia Espinoza, who is 14, nearly 15, attended the TLC program with her brother, Diego Castillo, 18. She has a list of things she enjoys about camp – “the zipline, the screamer (a high swing), the leaders, the nurses.”

“You can be yourself and do anything, by choice too, so you can back out,” Espinoza said. “No one discriminates.”

At camp, the teens can push and challenge themselves, to the delight of the Driscoll staff serving as counselors. The campers are generally healthy enough to stay at camp and participate in activities. For those still regaining their endurance and stability, the camp is an opportunity to build confidence and independence.

"Most of them have never done a lot of these things like sailing or zip lines or rock climbing, high ropes courses – all the things they get to try here,” Driscoll Children’s Hosptial Dr. Catherine Boston said. “It’s good for them because a lot of them have been sick and haven’t been able to even go to school or do any activities. They’ve been weak from some of their treatments.”

Located on 105 acres on Copano Bay near Rockport, the property includes coastlands and wetlands where campers can sail, fish and birdwatch, along with other traditional summer camp activities such as swimming, ziplining, archery, art and games.

“It is a traditional summer camp experience with the adaptations to serve campers,” Camp Aranzazu President and CEO Kurt Podeszwa said. “We really think of our activities as universal.”

The sailboats are the same style used by paralympic sailors. In addition to a traditional climbing wall, there is a less strenuous adapted wall and a pulley system to raise campers up to the platform so they can zipline down even if they can’t physically climb to the top. At camps for children with asthma, campers make s’mores without the campfire.

Since 2018, when the camp celebrated the completion of a bridge connecting camp walkways to the bay, campers have had more opportunities to sail and fish.

The camp will serve nearly 1,900 campers from the Coastal Bend, Golden Cresent, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas in 2023.

Operating year-round, Camp Aranzazu partners with organizations to host camps tailored to specific health needs, such as cancer, epilepsy, autism and asthma.

The camp has three main fundraisers, a local barbecue and clay shoots in Houston and San Antonio, and participates in the Coastal Bend Day of Giving in November.

Through fundraising and donations – roughly $2 million this year – the camp covers about two-thirds of the cost of programs. Partner organizations cover the remaining third.

“Camp Aranzazu works every week on a sense of belonging and self-efficacy,” Podeszwa said.

The camp provides kids with the opportunity build community and connect with others with similar life experiences.

Podeszwa said that campers learn about team building and encouraging one another.

“We really teach them about how to encourage people,” Podeszwa said. “Like, we don’t say things like, ‘Hey, I did it, you can do it.’ Because that isn’t necessarily true. Just because I can do something doesn’t mean that you can do it.”

Instead, encouragement at Camp Aranzazu might sound like, ‘I know you can do hard things and you’re doing great,’ Podeszwa said.

Sitting in the camp nature center eager to pet a hairless guinea pig named Nacho, 12-year-old Sophia Palacios, from Corpus Christ, said she loves camp.

“It’s fun,” Palacios said. “You get to make lots of friends and you get to see animals, plants, flowers and nature... They don’t keep you sitting in the cabins. They have you doing stuff.”

View the full photo gallery at the Corpus Christi Caller Times.


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Below are a list of volunteer opportunities at Camp Aranzazu. We will continue to update and add additional volunteer opportunities as they become available. Thank you for your interest!

Special Events Support

Camp Aranzazu holds several fundraising events throughout the year in Houston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Rockport. Volunteers are always needed to help make each event successful!

In Fall 2023, our special events include:

  • Bells & Shells in San Antonio - November 15-16, 2023
  • Holiday Bells & Shells in Houston - December 5, 2023

If you are interested volunteering at one of our special events, please email our development and communications project manager, Bianca, for more information on upcoming events.

Maintenance of Facilities and Grounds

Whether you are an individual looking to assist with landscaping or a company looking to make a big impact on our facilities, we can always use help more maintaining our beautiful 105-acre camp.

If you are interested in this type of on-location volunteer opportunity supporting our 3-person facilities team, please email our facilities director, Mandy, for more information.

Partner Camp Volunteer Opportunities

Are you looking for ways to work directly with the children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses that we serve? Check out our camping partners who are looking for volunteers for the coming camping season! 

Camp Aspire

Aspire Accessories


Denise Hazen
(713) 461-7200


Driscoll Children's Hospital


Yesenia Neil

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Activity Leader Summer 2019 Job Opportunity​​

Every year, Camp Aranzazu hires roughly 20 college aged individuals with varying skill sets to work as Activity Leaders from mid-May to mid-August. Activity Leaders have the fun and impactful job of enriching the lives of our campers with special needs through unique camping, environmental studies and retreat experiences.

Activity Leaders facilitate a variety of activities including, but not limited to arts and crafts, archery, high and low challenge courses, sports and games, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, sailing, swimming, nature sessions and more!

Benefits of this paid position include room and board and the potential to satisfy fieldwork and internship requirements in various fields of study. The buttons below include the additional documentation you will need to apply for the Activity Leader position. Email your completed application, resume and two unique and completed reference forms to our Camp Director, Amelia Haslam, and prepare for the summer camp experience of a lifetime!

If you have any questions, contact our Camp Director, Amelia Haslam, at

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Part-Time Receptionist

Are you looking for a part-time job opportunity that allows you to be surrounded by nature in a supportive work environment? Camp Aranzazu currently has an opening for a part-time receptionist position on our staff. This opportunity will allow you to support our mission of enriching the lives of children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses. To learn more about the position, click the job description below. 

The Receptionist is responsible for overseeing functions related to the front office. The Receptionist also assists with special projects and provides some administrative support for all staff. If you are interested in the position and have any questions, please contact Lillian Anfosso, our Finance and Administative Director at 

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Sailing Supervisor

Imagine a position that allows you to work with campers each day and have a beautiful view of Copano Bay along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Camp Aranzazu seeks someone with strong sailing experience to supervise our summer sailing program from mid-May through August 2019. The Sailing Supervisor will ensure that Camp Aranzazu provides a safe environment for children with special medical, physical, emotional, social or financial needs to experience sailing. Camp sessions include day camp sessions, as well as residential sessions that last from one to six nights. If you have any questions, contact our Camp Director, Amelia Haslam, at

Make sure to check out the job description below. To apply, email your resume to Amelia Haslam. 

Job Description

Summer Art Instructor

Do you have a passion for providing fine arts education and working with a committed staff of people dedicated to enriching the lives of children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses?

Camp Aranzazu seeks someone with art teaching experience to supervise our summer fine arts program from mid-May through mid-August 2019. The Art Instructor will ensure that Camp Aranzazu provides an intentional, expressive, and safe environment for children with special medical, physical, emotional, and/or social needs to create and experience fine arts. Camp session include day camp sessions, as well as residential sessions that last from one to six nights. If you have any questions, contact our Camp Director, Amelia Haslam, at

Make sure to check out the job description below. To apply, email your resume to Amelia Haslam. 

Job Description