5/2/2012 9:21 AM
By Alison Boerner
Summer days at Camp Odayin are filled with all the typical joys of camp—horseback riding, arts and crafts, wacky costumes, and canoeing. Children meet lifelong friends and find themselves longing to grow up to be like their cool counselors. While this is a common scene at many camps, an observant visitor might realize there’s something special about the campers at Camp Odayin. At meals, caring nurses give these vibrant children numerous colorful, cardiac medications. Down at the lake, waterskiing kids with zipper scars trail behind a boat carrying a cardiologist and an AED.
Camp Odayin is a Minnesota-based camp for children with heart disease, offering resident camp and winter camp for children ages 7-17, day camp for children ages 6-7, and family camp and support activities for families with a heart child of any age. Campers pay a minimal $25 registration fee to attend any Camp Odayin camping program.
The low cost to families is partly thanks to an all-volunteer staff, which includes highly-trained pediatric cardiac nurses and physicians, and a full cadre of skilled counselors. Of those generous volunteers, some even share similar life experiences with Camp Odayin campers and live with a congenital heart defect, like counselor (and ACHA member) Laura Hoagland...
“As a child growing up with tricuspid atresia, I often felt alone, isolated and beyond special. I didn't know anyone else who had three different surgeries to make their heart function, or who had collected 10 scars across her chest and back. Over the years I gained confidence and embraced the fact that, although I may have half of a heart, I didn't have to have half of a life. I graduated university and became a middle school special education teacher, which gives me the ability to travel in the summer, explore places ranging from Alaska to Poland, paraglide off the Teton Range in Wyoming and zip line down the mountains in Whistler, British Columbia, at 50 miles an hour. Life's journey has also led me to Minnesota, where I am privileged to spend time volunteering as a counselor at Camp Odayin. I love being able to spend the summer at a place where you can show your scars with pride, and where everyone has a special heart, even if they don't have a congenital heart defect.”
Please consider joining Laura and some amazing kids at resident camp this summer. Camp Odayin is currently accepting volunteer staff applications until May 15th. Volunteer counselors, nurses, and cardiologists commit to five days of camp in July or August and attend training in Minneapolis prior to camp. Please visit www.campodayin.org for camp dates, volunteer job descriptions, and application details. Feel free to contact Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-351-9185 with any questions.
Laura Hoagland was born with tricuspid atresia, ASD/VSD and pulmonary stenosis. She can be found trekking around the Pacific Northwest when she is not teaching or traveling.
Alison Boerner has been the Camp Odayin Assistant Director for five years. She holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Chapman University. Alison has been involved with a number of camps as a counselor and member of the board of directors. She’s inspired by Camp Odayin’s campers with heart disease and is thrilled to be a part of a small organization that makes a big difference!