With summer fast approaching, we started to take a peek at the plans for the summer. College visits? Check. Swim team? Check. Driver’s Ed? Check. Hockey Camp? Check. Band Camp? Check. Just when I thought I was done with our list, Owen yells “DON’T FORGET ABOUT HEART CAMP!!!!”. Needless to say – he is excited to attend Camp Odayin for a third summer.
Three years ago we found out that Camp Odayin was going to have a residential summer camp in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. This was great news because while I had heard about Camp Odayin, I also knew they usually hosted their camp in Minnesota. It is nervewracking enough to think of sending your single-digit age son with a heart defect to camp, it is even worse when the distance is over eight hours away. That all changed when the Wisconsin location was started.
I still was nervous about signing him up. On the VERY last day for sign up back in 2017, I asked him if he wanted to go, explaining he would sleep there and wouldn’t come home for four
Camp Odayin History
The camp is run by Sara Meslow, Executive Director and Founder, who started the camp 2002 after learning of a similar camp in California. She has her own heart history experience, and her passion for the organization and focus on the kids to allow them to focus on being a kid shows each time I have spoken with her in person or with an email I have sent.
Heart kids from around the country can attend one of the week-long Minnesota camps run over the first three weeks in July, as well as the recent addition in 2017 of the Wisconsin camp during the last week of July. Throughout the year they also host a Winter Camp in February as well Family Camp in the fall and a Mom’s Retreat (I still am trying to attend!) in early June.
During camp, nurses and physicians are looking after the heart kids each day. They help with the medications, activities and general well-being of the kids. The Camp Odayin motto sums it up best:
Kids Play.– Camp Odayin website
Camp Odayin provides fun, safe and supportive camp experiences and community building opportunities for young people with heart disease and their families.
Owen’s favorite part of camp is meeting new people and hanging out with friends. My favorite part of camp? He isn’t allowed electronics and spends the entire week screen free.
Since it is electronic free, we have no contact with him during the week. We are able to send him “camp notes” each night which the staff prints off and he reads our messages from home. Camp Odayin also posts photos online each night, and I spend my time looking through them trying to catch a glimpse of fun he is having.
From the Camp Odayin website, here is a “sample day” of their activities:
- 8:00 AM Flag raising
- 8:15 AM Breakfast
- 8:45 AM Cabin clean up
- 9:15 AM Three or four activity rotations (archery, horseback riding, arts & crafts, nature, boat rides, geocaching, and more) through out the morning.
- Noon Lunch
- 1:00 PM Rest hour
- 2:30 PM Waterfront Time (Swimming, canoeing, waterskiing, tubing, snorkeling, paddleboats, fishing)
- 4:30 PM Cabin time/ Free time/ Shower hour
- 5:30 PM Dinner
- 6:00 PM All camp games/activities
- 6:30 PM Evening activities (such as campfire, carnival, disco BINGO, Hawaiian Luau, Country Ho Down, talent show)
- 9:00 PM Snack and Cabin closing
- 9:30/10:00 PM Lights out
For transportation to and from camp, we have two options. We can drive him ourselves or we can have the bus drive him to camp. The first year we drove him ourselves both ways, and last year we selected the bus to get him to camp. He LOVED the experience of riding the bus from Evanston to camp. Parents do have to check the camper in and review medication list/provide medications. The nurses review health history and go over any last minute details. This year the departure spot for Illinois families is Rosemont (even easier for us!). Both last year and this year, we will pick him directly from camp as we have evening plans with the older boys!
Packing for camp is easy – they send a list a few weeks before camp. Usually requesting a plain t-shirt and some “fun” items that will be used during the week. Don’t forget the basics (tops, shorts, pajamas, toiletries), as well as a blanket/sleeping bag and pil
Camp 2019 – Cost & Deadline
The deadline for 2019 registration for the Wisconsin Camp is June 1st. Go directly to the website by clicking here for more info if interested! Did I mention the cost of camp? $25 for each camper.
Shocked? So was I. Knowing what others pay for camps during the summer I was certain there was a
This camp is run on donations and the heart of a great volunteer group & Board of Directors who “provides the direction and oversight needed to ensure the continued growth and success of the camp and its
The most important part of the continued success of Camp Odayin is to spread the word. Since congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect – chances are you know someone who has been affected. The benefit of being around a group of kids who have been through some of the same things you have has been priceless for Owen. Help spread the word so others have this same chance.