For 16 years, Mary Gant, MSN, RN, has been taking a week away from her job as an advanced-practice nurse with Christiana Care Health System to go to summer camp.
Gant participates in canoe trips and games, but she is at camp for a more serious reason: to serve as camp nurse, providing medical care and overseeing medications for the campers, all of whom have asthma. Gant is among the longest-serving in a crew of volunteers from Christiana Care who help every summer at the American Lung Association’s annual Asthma Camp, enabling children with asthma to have a safe, fun outdoor summer camp experience while also learning how to properly manage their condition.
“It’s for a really good cause; it gives kids who really need it an opportunity to learn more about their asthma and have a camp experience that can be safe, surrounded by health care professionals who can give them the care they need, should they need it,” Gant said.
“It gives kids who really need it an opportunity to learn more about their asthma and have a camp experience that can be safe, surrounded by health care professionals who can give them the care they need, should they need it.”
Christiana Care supports the Lung Association by allowing employees such as Gant the flexibility for time away from work to volunteer hours to staff the camp. Through the Delaware Technical & Community College-Wilmington Campus/Christiana Care Health System Respiratory Care Program, it also provides students pursuing their associate’s degree in respiratory therapy to serve as camp counselors.
“Christiana Care supports medical professionals so they can volunteer their time and expertise, while the respiratory therapy program provides education at the camp,” Lung Association camp coordinator Nicole Goldsboro said. “They are key partners in providing these camps to children.”
The day camp, this year held June 23-27 at the United Cerebral Palsy Center’s Camp Manito in Wilmington, is for children ages 7 to 11. Along with participating in typical summer-camp activities such as games and face painting, campers spend a portion of each day on asthma education.
“There’s a lot of miscommunication about asthma in general, in part because access to education isn’t universal. This camp provides a place for children with asthma to feel more secure in a camp setting, but there’s also a significant educational component for them and also for their parents, who get an opportunity to have their questions answered by the staff,” said Albert Rizzo, M.D., FACP, FACCP, chief of Christiana Care’s Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, who helped establish Christiana Care’s partnership with the Lung Association camp.
The Respiratory Care Program provides students who are entering their second year of study to serve as counselors.
“The students are responsible for the daily asthma education provided to the campers, along with daily camp activities designed to reinforce each day’s lesson plan, such as ‘trigger kick ball’ or ‘medication hangman,” said Tom Blackson, RRT, director of clinical education for the program. “It reinforces asthma education and self-management as key components of a respiratory therapist’s skill set. Since it is the students’ first clinical encounter, it emphasizes the need for community involvement. It is a win-win for all involved.”
Campers agree. Daniel Moffett, 14, attended for several years as a camper and this year returned as a junior counselor.
“As a camper, I learned that even if you have asthma you can still push yourself, you can still be outside, and that there are a lot of other people like you,” he said. “I decided to go back as a counselor because I wanted to give the campers the role model that I had as a camper, and to show them that, as an asthmatic, you can still grow up to have freedom.”