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Communities that KARE: Camp Odayin

A program for children with heart disease is making extraordinary efforts to give special campers the ultimate summer experience.

MINNEAPOLIS — Odayin is the Ojibwe word for heart. It's the perfect name for a camp that is dedicated to children with heart disease.

"1 out of 100 kiddos is born with something special with the structure of their heart.  Camp Odayin is a place where these kids meet peers that are just like them," said Sara Meslow, Camp Odayin's executive director.

Meslow spent years helping children with heart disease.

"I grew up going to camps, I worked at camps, I've been on the board of camps. I just believe in the power of camp," said Meslow.

This is a cause especially close to her heart, because of her own journey with heart health.

"I'm a heart person myself and I have seen lots of cardiologists over the years – since I was 13. I've had a couple different procedures; I lived with a defibrillator for 15 years," recalled Meslow.

Meslow has a special perspective for the kind of support these children need.

"Our kids have faced so much trauma in their lives with multiple surgeries.  This is the place where they can let go of all that worry and just be kids and just play," Meslow said.

Credit: Camp Odayin

Camp Odayin is able to do that thanks to hundreds of volunteers.

"A lot of these people are giving a full week of their time to come up to camp so every councilor, doctor, nurse is a volunteer," Meslow explained.

Now with COVID-19 jeopardizing summer plans, the team is working to figure out Plan B. It could consist of virtual experiences for campers or a few in person events.

No matter the hurdles, Meslow says it's worth it.

"To be able to provide something that just helps a kid feel better about themselves, to have an increased mental health view, I mean it really is so uplifting," Meslow said. She continued, "I always say, when your vocation and your calling are the same thing, you're pretty lucky."

Credit: Camp Odayin

Meslow says the camp should have a decision about its summer plans by June 1st.

You can sign up using this link to receive an e-newsletter to the camp.

Communities that KARE is sponsored by Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union.

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