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Portland parents upset by American Airlines' treatment of kids with disabilities who were stranded overnight

Their children were stuck waiting for a plane ride home without proper adult supervision, enough bathroom breaks, full meals, or access to medication, parents said.

Brittany Falkers (KGW)

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Published: 6:49 PM PDT August 11, 2019
Updated: 8:53 AM PDT August 12, 2019

A flight home from a summer camp for kids battling a genetic disorder turned into a nightmare for a group of local families Friday. They say their kids were stuck waiting overnight for a plane ride home without proper adult supervision, enough bathroom breaks, or full meals.

Imagine not knowing if your child is being cared for, getting their medications, or being fed as they wait for a flight thousands of miles away. That was the reality for nine families from Friday night into Sunday morning.

Each summer local kids head to Camp New Friends in Charlottesville, Virginia. The camp is part of the Brainy Camps network. It's a chance for kids to get away from everything that comes with fighting Neurofibromatosis (NF) and childhood cancer.

"It is an amazing paradise. It’s like heaven, being able to escape all our worries and problems and meet other people who have similar problems to ours," said 14-year-old Kelley Phillips, from Kelso, Washington. "We can do soccer, archery, walk-wall, swing, canoeing, everything."

NF is a set of complex genetic disorders that affects almost every organ system, causing tumors to grow on nerves in the brain and throughout the body. It can be debilitating and in some cases life-threatening.

"She’s gone through tons," Kelly’s mother, Danielle Phillips, said.

The first time Kelly left for camp she was in so much pain in her feet and legs she had to use a wheelchair. But camp changed everything. She experienced water therapy for the first time with her peers. By the time she got home, she was walking.

"She came home pushing her wheelchair. So camp is huge," Danielle Phillips said.

Credit: Maggie Kennedy
The children attend Camp New Friends, which is part of the Brainy Camps network.

The life-changing experience of the camp is made possible thanks to the Dino Doozer Foundation, a non-profit based in Kelso.

"They can just go and have fun and be kids and be part of a community that understands what it’s like when doctors are telling you you’ve got brain tumors, that you have cancer, that understands the bullying that happens in school," Dino Doozer Communications Director Maggie Kennedy said.

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