Debi Mankame, Camp Ronald McDonald Volunteer Nurse 

Debi Mankame has been caring for children since they young age of 12 when she started babysitting.  A southern California native, Debi graduated from California State University, Long Beach, with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development. She earned a minor in Child Development. While going to school, she interned at Miller Children’s Hospital in their Child Life Program. She also worked as a co-teacher in a Montessori infant through kindergarten school. After graduating, Debi worked for Carnival Cruise Line in their Camp Carnival Program. There she met the love of her life, her husband Milind.

While pondering “what next” and working for Carnival, Debi thought about the places she had worked. She thought about what she loved about each. Debi knew working with children was a must. She enjoyed the idea of child life, being a teacher, and caring for others.  Debi realized all of that was nicely tied into nursing, so she came home to start a nursing program.

From Cruises to Camp

While going through nursing school, a copy of ‘Working Nurse’ crossed her path.  She read an article written by a Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times volunteer nurse, Fran Wiley.  Fran’s article was about the joys and rewards of volunteer nursing.  She was fascinated and kept the magazine to remind herself what she wanted to do after finishing nursing school.

Debi passed her boards and finishing her RN residency at Children’s Hospital Orange County and then finally had time to devote to volunteering.  She went back to Working Nurse magazine, found the information about Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times and applied. Debi was nervous about going someplace as a nurse volunteer as she was still a relatively new nurse. She earned her license only a year before. Her friend and mentor Judy Evans suggested they volunteer at family camp together.

What happened next? Debi fell in love again! At Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, she enjoyed seeing families connecting, watching brave young cancer patients behaving like “normal” kids again. She enjoyed connecting with the amazing young women and men who volunteered their time to allow these families experiencing such a life changing event as cancer to have a moment of normalcy.  That was a magical weekend for Debi.  After her experience, she volunteered at summer camp where she met camp volunteer nurses, Barb Britt, Fran Wiley and Dr. Susan. Debi became totally hooked, in love and wished she could be at camp for all of the summer.

The Joys of Camp

She saw that all of the campers were accepted for who themselves, not their diagnosis; they were free to be themselves. Debi wished she could bottle that!  After that life changing summer, Debi requested a week of her vacation each summer to devote to camp. Typically, Debi pesters the Associate Executive Director Brian Crater, for dates and requests her vacation dates before they are all gone!  Debi feels privileged to volunteer with these children. She has learned and incorporated so much from the amazing camp volunteer nurses into her own nursing practice.  Upon arriving at camp she is greeted with a welcome home. She truly feels that is just what camp is – home! She says, “camp is a family that has welcomed me and nurtured me. I feel it has given me so much more than I have been able to give back”.

Debi Mankame is one of Camp’s nurses honored for her incredible dedication and commitment to the program in volunteering and her advocacy and help with outreach and recruitment at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Debi has also been influential in securing donations of medication for Camp’s Med Shed.