Having a child with asthma can be worrisome for a parent. The thought of sending them off to summer camp can be even more daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Being active is an important part of growing up strong and healthy, and children living with asthma are no exception. An asthma-specific summer camp could be the perfect opportunity to give asthma sufferers the chance to have a true camp experience while under direct medical supervision.

Children with asthma, like most children, enjoy being physically active. Summer camp provides the perfect setting for asthmatic kids to learn that they can still lead a normal life, despite their condition. Those who follow their asthma action plans and have their asthma well under control can often take part in the same activities as their peers, which means they don’t have to miss out on a healthy and active lifestyle.

In 2000, the YMCA & Hurley Wellness Services partnered to start an asthma camp so that children with these health issues can have fun, feel normal, and bond with others who share their condition. Registered Nurse and asthma educator Jennifer Paling says, “At Camp Easy Breathers, kids with asthma are with other kids that have the same diagnosis, so they feel like they belong. It’s open to all children between the ages of 8 and 14 with the condition, no matter the severity.”

The camp, which is located on the grounds of Camp Copneconic in Fenton, aims to debunk myths that because a child has asthma they can’t play hard or participate in activities that may trigger their condition.

During the four-day-and-three-night camp, kids participate in a variety of activities, including archery, rock wall climbing, hiking, swimming, arts & crafts, canoeing, sail-boating, hammock assembly, and reptile education, just to name a few. In addition to enjoying the benefits of the great outdoors, children are shown that they can be in control and learn how to take an active role in the management of their health. They also have access to an on-site wellness center equipped with treatment and exam rooms and a pharmacy for quick medical attention in the event a child’s asthma is triggered.

“We have an RN, respiratory therapist, pediatric physician, and a nurse practitioner on-hand in case of an emergency,” Paling explains. “Our campers are in great hands.”

As long as asthma is under control, physical activity and participation in sports should be encouraged in all children, including those with asthma. Living an active and healthy lifestyle allows asthmatic children to improve their physical fitness and participate with their peers, which can lead to overall improved quality of life. Camp reinforces the importance of physical activity, and kids learn that just because they have asthma, it doesn’t mean they have to sit on the sidelines. At Camp Easy Breathers, dedicated staff members work to help children and their families understand that even with a diagnosis of asthma, children can still participate in physical activities while learning to feel more comfortable about managing their asthma.

This year’s Camp Easy Breathers held July 29 – August 1. The cost for camp can reach over $300 per child, but Hurley Medical Center has instituted special funding to provide financial assistance to significantly reduce the fee.

“We hunt for grants to help reduce costs and have had pretty good success with sending out forms to our physicians in the county to see if they’d like to sponsor a child for camp,” Paling says. In addition, Hurley recently launched a “Jean Day” initiative to help offset the costs of this year’s camp. Employees can purchase $5 tickets to wear jeans to work with the proceeds raised going directly to the Camp Easy Breathers fund.

Most children live a full and active life with asthma. If you have a child with asthma, you can help by learning as much as you can about your child’s condition and by taking an active role in helping them to manage this common childhood disease. They can do anything when their asthma is controlled, and they shouldn’t have to miss out on what it means to be a kid.

Kudos magazine 5.3

Written By Wendi Fournier