Louis Savino enjoyed the time of his young life this summer, petting horses, bowling and swimming. These may seem like everyday activities for a 9-year-old, but having everyday fun has its challenges for children with asthma.
Louis, a Middletown resident, attended Asthma Camp, where volunteers from Christiana Care made certain Louis and 10 other campers stayed healthy while they played games and learned how to manage their asthma.
“Volunteers are integral to the success of the camp,” says Will Braunlein, program specialist for the American Lung Association. “People from Christiana Care step up each and every year.”
Mary Gant, a Christiana Care nurse and registered respiratory therapist, has volunteered for 12 years. This year, she helped guide a canoe trip on the Brandywine River.
“Kids whose triggers are heat or humidity or physical exercise learn that they can still have an excellent time canoeing and swimming if they pre-medicate,” she says. “Parents tell us their kids don’t like to take their medications in front of other children, but they don’t worry about it here.”
Based at Christiana Care’s Eugene du Pont Preventive Medicine & Rehabilitation Institute, the week-long Asthma Camp is designed to educate children ages 7 to 11 on ways to deal with such asthma triggers as pollen, smoke and animals.
For example, kids who react to animals learned that it’s OK to pet a horse, as long as you wash your face and hands afterward.
“It’s a fun environment that stimulates learning,” Braunlein says.
Christiana Care allows employees to devote work hours to volunteering at the camp. It’s important to reach out to the community, says Fran Gott, Christiana Care’s clinical manager of respiratory care and a former Asthma Camp volunteer himself.
“We try to accommodate schedules so the camp has the support of respiratory therapists, day in and day out,” he says. “We are committed to helping these children who are severe asthmatics attend camp like any other kids.”
Louis and the other campers learned about asthma through such hands-on activities as filling toilet-paper tubes with cotton candy and then dissolving the cotton candy with spray from a water gun.
“The water gun is like our inhalers,” he says. “It clears out the tubes so we can breathe better.”
One of the best parts of camp is getting to know other kids who have asthma.
“Summer is supposed to be fun,” Louis says. “I learned a lot at Asthma Camp—and had fun at the same time.”