HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)– For several years, Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and Ellie’s Heart Foundation have changed the lives of hundreds of children with heart disease, and this year they are giving them a real camping experience.
“They’ll teach you everything you need to know and give you the confidence you need for the real world,” a camper at Lionheart Joseph Martinez said.
Camp Lion Heart, founded by Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, offers kids with heart disease an opportunity to experience a summer just like any other kid.
“It’s enjoying themselves being able to be a little bit competitive just having a whole lot of fun and being just normal kids they don’t have to worry about any of their setbacks defects or you know any of their disease processes or anything,” Camp Director Saul Elertas said.
Children 11-18 years old spend a week in the woods camping, with all the activities that go with it such as swimming, mountain biking, and cookouts all under the supervision of Penn State doctors.
“It does represent that support that they can come here knowing that it’s a safe space knowing that they have medical physical mental support here to just participate in activities and carry on and just be themselves and not worry about any limitations that they may have as far as physical activity,” Elertas said.
For some campers, it’s about testing their limits.
“I feel Like it challenges me so I know what I can do or what my limits are because it’s like sometimes we limit ourselves on running like most of us aren’t really in sports but when we come here we feel like we can do just about anything really,” Camp Counselor Hailey Boardman said.
And for others, it helps them accept their reality.
“You feel great man just seeing the counselors and campers having the same condition as you just makes you feel great inside and gives you the confidence to just say out loud I have a heart condition heart disease,” Martinez said.