MCKEE, Ky. — Scarlett Marks is passionate about her work. During the school year, she’s the nurse at Sand Gap Elementary School and in the summer, for the past three years, she has been the camp nurse at Christian Appalachian Project’s Camp AJ.
“My passion for these children is so great,” she said. “They come to camp and it’s like a vacation to them, but if they are homesick or their bellies hurt, I can help. I can make their stay a lot more pleasant and I love that.” She was recruited to work at Camp AJ by the camp coordinator Mike O’Brien who also provides educational support services at the elementary school.
“Because she is a school nurse, she is also really good at working with kids, and knowing when a child just needs a hug rather than a drug,” O’Brien said. “She’s also so protective of our counselors and other staff, and often will recommend that we go to the doctor when we might not do it on our own.”
According to O’Brien, Marks also brings a huge amount of energy and hard work ethic to camp. “When she isn’t needed to patch up scrapes and cuts, or to give kids their medication, she’s helping in the kitchen, or cleaning the windows, or helping with laundry. She truly is a wonder woman.”
“After my first summer I was hooked,” Marks said with a broad smile. “Most of the parents will talk with me almost daily by text or instant messaging. I can make them feel relieved that I’m here and I will take care of their children, just like I take care of my own kids. They are all my kids. A lot of parents have told me they feel so much better knowing that a full-time nurse is there.”
Marks is from Jackson County, so many parents are more willing to send their kids to Camp AJ because they know and trust her. She also comes to camp in the evenings if a child is sick or if camp staff just need extra help.
Camp AJ holds a special place in the heart of the Marks family. They don’t live far away, but it seemed miles away when her children attended before she was the camp nurse. She was nervous about whether they would eat enough or stay hydrated. However, her children love the interactions with counselors that come from across the nation.
“My favorite thing about coming to camp is getting to meet new people,” said Sarah, her teenaged daughter, who has attended Camp AJ for the past four years. “It’s pretty cool to have my mom here as the camp nurse. Camp AJ is like a home away from home.”
Marks echoed that. “Coming to Camp AJ is a piece of heaven on earth,” she concluded. “When you come up that mountain, it’s like you’ve entered another world. Camp AJ is a magical place.”