- Associated Press - Saturday, July 30, 2016

WESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Around 65 campers participated in the 26th Camp Catch Your Breath at Jacksons Mill this past week.

The camp was started to provide a summer camp to those children who are turned away from other camps every year due to their medical condition, asthma.

The American Lung Association in West Virginia worked with the United Hospital Center (UHC) 26 years ago to co-found the camp.

“Part of the goal of the American Lung Association is to ensure that children who have asthma are able to, first of all, understand their disease, and second of all manage it,” Chantal Fields, area director of the American Lung Association in West Virginia, said.

She said there is no reason children with asthma cannot live a normal life.

“That is exactly the goal of this camp,” Fields said. “We bring these children in here with asthma and spend a week educating them about their disease while they have a fantastic time at a summer camp like any other kid would.”

This is the only camp of its kind in the state that helps young children who do not know much about their asthma.

“What our parents tell us of the children who have been to our camp before (is that)?their children are much better at recognizing early symptoms of asthma attacks,” Fields said. “It has helped keep kids calm after they have left this camp, because they do understand a little bit more what is happening with their body, and they understand how the medications prescribed by your doctor to keep you healthy.”

Camp counselors are medical professionals who can assist a camper if an asthma attack should occur.

“These kids can come here and, No. 1, be comfortable because they know if they have an asthma attack they have got help right away,” camp director and UHC pharmacist Sonny Hoskinson said. “No. 2, a lot of other camps they can’t go to just because they have a variety of medications that those camps can’t handle. Third, they develop friendships. They find out that they are not alone. ‘There are other kids like me.’ Where sometimes they get made fun of in school for using an inhaler and for being different, but here, everyone is the same.”

Hoskinson said he appreciates the support of the community.

“Financially it would not be possible to run this kind of camp if we did not have a lot of generous donors,” he said. “This is their summer vacation, so it means a lot to be able to give them that fun camp experience and yet promote a disease that they deal with and teach them how to deal with it on a daily basis.”

On July 25, the campers attended a special presentation by local wildlife biologist Jo Santiago, the creator of Flying Higher. Flying Higher is an organization that travels nationwide giving presentations about birds of prey to youth. Santiago currently has five wild birds that she has nursed after an injury or disease.

Lydia Ribel of Fairmont said she enjoys attending Camp Catch Your Breath.

“Camp is fun,” Ribel said. “I look forward to it every year.”

This year was the second year that she attended the camp, and she is looking forward to attending more Camp Catch Your Breaths in the future.

“I can’t wait for the rest of the week and for camp next year,” she said.

Ribel said it is hard to choose her favorite thing about the camp.

“It is hard to choose one because I like all activities that we do,” she said. “It is so fun.”


Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com

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