Imagine not wanting to go to summer camp because you didn’t want to have to explain the scar on your chest from heart surgery or a parent being too scared to send their child off to camp because they would be too far from medical care. This is what the families of children with heart disease had to think about before Camp Odayin came along.
Camp Odayin provides safe, fun and supportive camp experiences and community building opportunities for young people with heart disease and their families.
Sara Meslow knew about heart disease. At just 13 years old, she was diagnosed with supra ventricular tachycardia which caused abnormal electrical impulses sometimes made her heart to beat wildly. She grew up to be an elementary school social worker and volunteered for several summers at a camp for young heart patients in California. Sara’s mother suggested that she start one of these camps in Minnesota and Camp Odayin was born.
The camp was formed in 2001. Odayin means “heart” in Ojibway. The goal is to make the camp an ordinary camp so the kids don’t have to feel like a heart patient.
The main office is located in Stillwater, Minnesota but their camp programs are held around the area. They have a resident camp in Crosslake, Minnesota; a day camp in St. Paul, Minnesota; and a winter camp and family camp in Amery, Wisconsin.
The only cost to campers is a $25 registration fee per person to attend. The actual costs are between $100 and $600 per child depending on the program. The additional funds are contributed by generous donors and four annual fundraising events. They also utilize an all-volunteer staff, including highly trained pediatric cardiac nurses and physicians, in addition to the camp counselors and program directors.
The resident camp is for children with heart disease between 8 and 17 years of age, the day camp is for children with heart disease that are 6 and 7 years of age, and the family camp is for families with a child with heart disease. All camps are for children who would benefit from connecting with other young people who may share similar health, emotional, and social concerns. Camper eligibility is determined upon recommendation by a pediatric cardiologist and approval by the Camp Odayin Medical Director.
The organization hosts three annual fundraisers. The Heart & Sole Fun Run/Walk features a beautiful 5K run and 2.5K walk at Como Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota in September. The Whole Heart Golf Tournament is an annual event in June at the Indian Hills Golf Club in Stillwater, Minnesota. The Have a Heart Benefit is a music event held each winter. You can learn about these fundraising events on the organizations website. These fundraisers return about 93% to their campers.
How can you help?
- Each summer over 120 volunteers are needed as counselors, nurses, and cardiologists. Camp counselors stay in the cabins with 7 to 9 campers. Each cabin is also staffed by a nurse who administers medication and monitors the health of the campers. You can learn more and apply for these positions here.
- The organization also utilizes volunteers who serve on event planning committees and provide office support. You can learn more and apply for these positions here.
- You can purchase Camp Odayin logo clothing on their website.
- You can also make a monetary donation using the “Donate Here” button on the organization’s website.