Med Students Connect with DC Homeless Youth Through Sports Camp

Posted in GUMC Stories

AUGUST 1, 2014 – Demonstrating that community outreach and service to others can be fun and fulfilling, 20 first- and second-year Georgetown medical students hosted a weeklong camp July 28-Aug. 1 for nearly 50 homeless children from Washington, D.C.

The student-led HoyaMed Summer Sports Camp, held at RFK Stadium for children aged 5 to 13, showed the campers they can have fun while being active outdoors and eating nutritious snacks, says Molly Warren (M’17), volunteer coordinator for the camp.

Activities throughout the week included kickball, tag, soccer, flag football, track and field races, dance competitions, an RFK Stadium tour and a chance to watch a practice session of Washington’s professional soccer team, D.C. United.

Now in its second year, the sports camp is a big success with both campers and counselors.

“It’s great to see the kids each morning run out of the van onto the field, excited about coming to camp and not wanting to leave at the end of the day,” Warren says.

Giving a Little Love

The medical students who volunteer as camp counselors are looking to give back to the community and make a positive and lasting impact on the children’s lives, organizers say.

“Some of the campers don’t have parents or they have only one parent, and some of them come from bad situations,” says Matt Baer (M’17), one of the camp’s co-directors. “Coming to the camp gives them a chance to see that there are people outside of the shelter who care about them.”

Warren has found a simple, yet effective way to connect with the campers, who come from D.C. General homeless shelter.

“If one of the kids gets mad or frustrated about something, you just give them a little bit of love,” says Warren. “If you just take them and either hold them, hug them or tell them you love them, they’ll say ‘I love you too’ and they calm down. The more they hear they are loved, the better.”

The experience reinforces Georgetown University Medical Center (new window)’s founding principle of cura personalis, which means care of the whole person.

“When we’re taught medicine, we’re taught the physiology and also how to treat the human and not just the disease,” says Warren. “Cura personalis underlies everything we learn and so we’re trying to [put that into practice] here as well.”

Growing From Strong Roots

The HoyaMed camp started last summer (new window) as the brainchild of Paul Elsbernd (M’16), who wanted to work with children between his first and second years of medical school. Elsbernd, also a Hoya Clinic (new window) volunteer, worked with faculty mentors to bring the idea to fruition.

His hard work “put the roots of everything in place for us to run this camp again this year,” says co-director Christina Paul (M’17). “I just admire him, he has such a big heart and I’m so glad he helped provide us with the opportunity to do this again.”

Eileen Moore, MD (new window), faculty leader for the HoyaMed Summer Sports Camp and co-medical director for the student-led Hoya Clinic, has watched the camp grow from the beginning planning stages.

“The students this year have really built the camp on the shoulders of great leaders last year,” Moore says. “They were really diligent and tenacious on details and went the extra mile to make sure everything fell into place.”

It Takes a Village

The camp relies heavily on support from others, both within Georgetown and the broader D.C. community.

The Hoya Clinic furnishes transportation, medical supplies and equipment to the camp staff. Georgetown’s Dahlgren Memorial Library (new window) provides t-shirts for the counselors and campers, promotional flyers and a banner, and Georgetown’s Yates Field House (new window) supplies sports equipment.

D.C. United gave the camp’s staff access to their facilities for ice and water, gave each camper a new soccer ball and donated tickets for the families to attend an upcoming game through their Kicks for Kids (new window) program. Every camper received a medal for their participation courtesy of Washington Trophy. 

“The contributions of these generous departments and organizations allows medical students to give back to the community and shows that not only does Georgetown School of Medicine believe in the care of the whole person, as in cura personalis, but Georgetown truly cares about the whole community,” says Baer.

To learn more about the HoyaMed Summer Sports Camp or how to become involved, contact Dr. Eileen Moore at

By Sarah Reik
GUMC Communications