When the children of Dr. A.L. Gerner and his wife Shirley wanted to go outside and play with their friends, it required more consideration than what the weather was like. The Gerners lived on a large ranch which ran along the Arkansas River in far southeast Broken Arrow, and was covered with trees and brush. In addition, Dr. Gerner and Shirley (a trained nurse) had treated many children over the years in their medical office who were injured by falls, insect and snake bites, burns and other dangers of the environment.
When the Gerner children and their friends went outside to play, they were first given some basic lessons in avoiding those types of injuries and in how to treat those they could not avoid. And as the word spread about those lessons, many area parents asked that the safety courses be opened to the general public.
In 1983 Camp Bandage was born. The Gerners reached out to local, state and even federal agencies for help in providing even more information on safety to the children who attended the one-day event each spring. Each year the list of participants grew. More and more children attended, learning lessons which could save their own lives or the lives of others.
The program attracted local media attention, which in turn led to a live news report from Camp Bandage on ABC-TV’s The Home Show. In 1986 an article on Camp Bandage was published in the U.S. Government magazine “Embassy,” which was distributed to nearly 160 countries throughout the world. Dr. Gerner began getting calls from officials in other states who wanted to create similar programs. He was even brought in to help start some of them.
From the beginning, the main theme has never changed: “The lessons you learn could help save a life.” No one has ever had to pay for those lessons. The camps have always been free. Volunteers have made that possible – sharing their expertise with the children and their parents who attended. Some businesses and organizations have helped with financial contributions. The Gerner family remained the backbone of Camp Bandage, providing the leadership, the site (Medicine Square Gardens) and a great deal of their own money.
Camp Bandage partnered with Tulsa Area Safe Kids Coalition for five years. After the deaths of both Dr. Gerner and Shirley the event was held one more year by the family before it was discontinued.
Falls are the No. 1 cause of unintentional injury for children, with those ages 14 and under accounting for one third of all fall-related visits to hospital emergency rooms
The need for such a program, however, has never diminished. Injury continues to be the leading cause of death in children and young adults. Falls are the No. 1 cause of unintentional injury for children, with those ages 14 and under accounting for one third of all fall-related visits to hospital emergency rooms. Nearly 300,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in the U.S. each year for bicycle-related injuries, with about half of those diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. Drowning, choking and burns remain leading causes of deaths and injuries to young people.
Approximately 45 percent of unintentional injury deaths occur in and around the home.
Camp Bandage will help point out the importance of what all of us can do to avoid those accidents. There will be demonstrations by public safety and health professionals. Broken Arrow police and fire departments will participate in a staged motor vehicle collision with “injuries”. Life Flight will be on call. At each of the “emergency” situations you’ll be shown step-by-step how to care for victims until emergency help arrives.
It’s all information which can be found in a book… or on-line. But Camp Bandage creates lasting memories and lasting lessons by bringing it all to life.