Camp Bon Coeur :: An Oasis For Heart Warriors
Having children with medical needs affects you. There’s always so many questions to be asked, decisions to be made. What if my child doesn’t progress like other kids? What if something happens? What does their future look like? You also start questioning whether or not they’ll get to have the normal experiences of childhood most people take for granted. Summer camp is one of those experiences.
Let’s backtrack a little. I have two children with heart conditions. My daughter is 9, and my son is 4. She was diagnosed as an infant and he was diagnosed in utero. They’ve both undergone surgery to alleviate their conditions and improve their lives. While those surgeries were not a cure, because once you are diagnosed with CHD, you’ll ALWAYS have CHD, they have given them a better quality of life that has allowed them to do most things that their peers do.
My daughter has been self conscious about her condition and her “battle scar” as long as I can remember.
It’s been really hard for her to find other kids that she can relate to. She has felt like an outsider for many years. As a mom, that’s hard to watch. As much as I’ve encouraged her and uplifted her, I cannot force other kids to be nice and accept her. While she does have her circle of friends, the fact of the matter is that some kids just aren’t accepting of others that are different than them. She’s come home upset more than once about getting picked on because she would have to take breaks from recess and PE or go to the nurse because she felt sick. With her best interests in mind, I spent all of last winter and spring toying with the idea of sending her to a camp I heard about through word of mouth, Camp Bon Coeur. It was a tough decision. My girl had NEVER been away from me longer than a weekend. How would she cope? Would she fit in? Would she need her mom?!
I’m so glad I made the decision to let her go.
Camp Bon Coeur was a saving grace for us. Based out of Lafayette, they’re a nonprofit foundation committed to providing a safe, inclusive camp specifically tailored to children (aged 7 and up) and teenagers with heart conditions. There’s a whole application process, just like other camps. The difference is, because it’s a camp for heart kids, a cardiologist’s approval is needed before they’re considered and since they’re so tailored to one specific group, only 60 kids are accepted a year.
During their weeklong stay, campers are able to do all those normal kid activities, under the supervision of counselors (some of them former campers themselves!) and a full medical staff at all times. They enjoy swimming, archery, sports, art, and so many other things while building a sense of camaraderie with other kids JUST LIKE THEM. My daughter truly blossomed from her experience at camp. For the first time in her life, she was around people who could provide her with something that, no matter how bad I wanted to, I couldn’t.
They provided her with the comfort of fitting in.
By the end of the week, every single camper and staff member knew her name and had something positive to say about her. She truly became part of a family there. Driving away from camp, she was already talking about going back the next summer.
Why did I write a story about a camp that most children won’t be able to attend? Because I know somewhere out there is a mom like me. Struggling to help their heart warrior find their place in this world and trying to find confidence. Those kids have been through more than most adults, they deserve to have a place to go where for once, they can feel like everyone else. Where they can wear their swimsuits and show their scars off proudly, without having to explain what they’ve been through. A place where they can be kids.
If you’d like more information, visit Camp Bon Coeur (heartcamp.com). Camp Bon Coeur takes donations and sponsorships throughout the year in order to make camp accessible to all that attend, no matter financial standing. They offer support groups and host a few other events outside of summer camp, including a family camp during the winter that my girl and I are excited to attend.