Each summer, a group of BraveHearts, children who have undergone heart surgery or have a congenital heart defect treated at our children’s hospital, have an opportunity to attend a camp made just for them. The Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation provides financial support and medical staff to the Center for Courageous Kids to make this week possible.
Some campers attend year after year, and for others it’s their first time away from home. Whether veteran or rookie, this environment, this experience, allows this special group of kids to “just be kids” and experience amazing memories, conquer fears and learn new things that only happen at summer camp.
Here are some of the most memorable lessons I had a chance to witness this year at camp BraveHearts:
- A young man with autism and a congenital heart defect gets to live out his dream of being a “rock star,” showing his talents on a blowup guitar during Stage Night. Best part, his fellow cabin mates and counselors surprise him and join in his performance as backup dancers and a mosh pit.
- After attending camp for more than six years, a young man conquers his shy personality and completes a ventriloquist act on stage with a Kermit the frog puppet. One of the funniest moments of the night: “Kermit, you live in a pond, right?” “Yes, that is correct.” “So how’s Miss Piggy and does she live there with you?” (Dramatic pause) “Ugh, next question please.” The crowd goes wild with laughter. Fear conquered.
- A 14-year-old girl works with a children’s hospital nurse who attended the camp and learns how to do her own G-tube feeding for the first time. She starts on the first day, and by day two is independent for the rest of the week.
- During a doughnut-making class, a young girl who struggles with food textures due to having a tracheostomy tube for an extended period tries icing for the first time. She goes over the top that day and eats a quarter of one of the doughnuts. A huge milestone made possible by the influence of a class of her peers all participating in a safe and fun environment.
- Children with heart conditions can run races too! Every child at camp participates in a BraveHearts trot. Some walk, some run — but almost everyone participates and completes an athletic activity that most may not have ever thought they could do.
- A young lady who has attended camp for more than 10 years finally makes the most of a trip to the horse barn. For years she has declined to participate in the group trail ride because she was nervous and afraid of horses. This year, her last year of camp, she decides it is time. (horse barn photo)
- Each day, a group of kids learns how to use an embroidery sewing machine. Some make pillowcases and some make personalized bandanas. Either way, they go home with a keepsake to remember their time.
- Girls (and boys) take turns practicing putting on makeup, styling hair and painting nails. Their “clients,” brave counselors who are up for anything, make great models of their work. (photo from Lauren’s Camera)
- Even if you never danced or cheered before, you do at Camp BraveHearts. Each lodge has its own chants and cheers that are performed with pride by the counselors and campers. Everyone leaves with some new dance moves!
10. When a child comes to Camp BraveHearts, he gets to leave every worry, every stress and every health issue at the gate and just be a kid for the week. In this safe environment, amazing medical staff and counselors do their best to make any experience possible if it is something that child wants to do.
Want to help more kids have a summer camp experience?
To support other children who depend on financial support from the Children’s Hospital Foundation to have experiences like Camp BraveHearts, make a gift from your heart today. Make a donation or call (502) 629-8060.