Paige Mackintosh: The Importance of Giving Back

By Yara Clark (’21)

Camp Korey is a year-round camp for youth with life-altering medical conditions. Named for Korey Rose, a teen who lost his battle with cancer at age eighteen, the camp, located in Mount Vernon, Washington, provides a community in which participants can build courage, confidence, and determination. This special camp has positively affected the lives of many people, including Western alumna Paige Mackintosh (’13).

Mackintosh grew up with a medical condition called hemifacial microsomia, a type of craniofacial disorder. In Mackintosh’s case, the right side of her skull is underdeveloped. She is missing her right ear and uses a hearing aid. She also has limited movement on the right side of her face.

“The biggest thing is my hearing because it impacts my day-to-day activities,” said Mackintosh. “It has caused a lot of my insecurity. Looking different in and of itself made me feel insecure. People have said mean things and stared. I didn’t notice how insecure and isolated I felt until I reached high school, which made it worse.”

Although her high school years were not easy, Mackintosh discovered Western Washington University and was drawn to the recreation management and leadership program within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She was eager to pursue an education in a setting in which she could find both acceptance and a renewed sense of self. This program provided the perfect environment.

“Recreation is unique in that it’s small. In this program, there were around 60 people, and we were all going through the same phases at the same time with the same group of peers. It was amazing, and it was exactly what I needed in a program,” said the young alumna and psychology minor.  

Camp Korey taking a photo with her Therapeutic Rec major group

Paige Mackintosh poses with her recreation major peers.

Mackintosh spent much of her free time participating in sports.

“I played intramural soccer all four years. I was usually on a few teams each quarter,” she said. “Sporadically, I also participated in volleyball and basketball.”

In addition to her love for sports, the student was also drawn to volunteerism.

“I was a member of Circle K, which is a service organization,” said Mackintosh. “You sign up and get to do volunteer projects for the community.”

Mackintosh found meaning and satisfaction in giving back. As a student, she dedicated much of her time to helping others and to her self-development. She was inspired to help those who needed her most. Spending time with Western peers with similar interests also helped Mackintosh emerge from her shell and develop greater self-confidence.

Shortly after enrolling at Western, Mackintosh also discovered Camp Korey. Her experience at the camp affirmed her passion for recreation studies.

“Paige’s journey is a reminder of the power of community. Western’s recreation program gave her a home, and Camp Korey gave her purpose. It was through the university’s recreation program that she found Camp Korey, for which we are incredibly thankful,” said Kim Puhrmann, Camp Korey’s director of marketing and community engagement. “Like Paige, many of our campers experience similar feelings of isolation, insecurity, and loneliness. They go to many doctors’ appointments and often undergo multiple surgeries. Camp Korey accepts their conditions and helps them to feel more secure and connected through recreational programs that foster friendship and confidence.”

Mackintosh began working at the camp as a counselor. By helping other children with medical conditions become strong and confident, she learned to do the same. She found herself within a supportive community that was able to help her grow and thrive.

She is currently working as volunteer coordinator for Camp Korey. In this position, she draws on the skills she learned through Western’s recreation program and her volunteer experiences as a student to create a safe and loving space for kids.

Camp Korey offers free, medically-supported camp programs that provide children with transformational experiences. The camp also offers the Camp to You hospital outreach program throughout the Western Washington region. Learn more at www.campkorey.org, and follow Camp Korey on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.