U of A pediatric resident brings summer camp magic to children with heart disease
Heart Heroes Camp offers kids with complex medical needs a chance to experience the joy of summer camp.
By ROSS NEITZ
Enjoying summer activities can be difficult for children with heart disease, but many will now have the opportunity to experience the joys of summer camp thanks to two free programs created by a University of Alberta pediatric resident.
The inaugural Little Heart Heroes Mini Camp is being held for children ages four through seven on July 21 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Ranch in Edmonton. Kids aged eight to 14 will get to experience Heart Heroes Camp from August 3-5 at Camp Yowochas on Wabamun Lake.
“Children born with complex structural heart malformations have already experienced a long and arduous journey through a host of different challenges,” said Devin Chetan, the pediatric resident who founded the camp. “They have endured far more in their few short years than many will in a lifetime. When you consider how much adversity they have overcome and still have a smile on their face, we believe each of them has earned their superhero designation.”
Children born with heart disease start life at a disadvantage. Some need open-heart surgery in the first week of life followed by several more operations by the time they are only a few years old. Others have heart conditions that can only be fixed by a heart transplant, which comes with its own significant challenges.
“Many have complex medical needs and aren’t able to participate in most recreational activities because community programs don’t have the resources to look after the children safely,” said Chetan. “For some critically ill children, Heart Heroes Camp may be their last chance to have the summer camp experience. They deserve the chance to just be kids too.”
Children will attend the camps at no cost thanks to The Little Heart Heroes Fund created in association with the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation.
The programs promote independence among campers and allow them to discover they aren’t alone in the obstacles they face. During the camps, doctors and nurses from the Stollery Children’s Hospital will take over medical care for the children to ensure the only thing the kids and their families have to worry about is having fun.
The children get to participate in a wide range of activities at the camps, including archery, wall climbing, zip lining, paddle boarding, swimming, arts and crafts, and even a real-life version of “hungry hungry hippos.” And though the aim is to just have fun, Chetan said the impact is long-lasting.
“The kids leave with more hope, confidence and unforgettable camp experiences.”