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Asthma camp teaches kids about fun, health

Children who attend the Boggy Creek Gang Camp near Orlando learn to manage their illness while leading active lives.

Asthma can be a very frightening disease. Sometimes you feel like your throat is closing as you gasp for air, your chest tightens, you can't stop wheezing, and you wonder if you're going to make it through this severe attack. And if you're a child _ these fears are magnified.

The American Lung Association's Florida affiliates provide a weeklong summer camp at the Boggy Creek Gang Camp near Orlando for children ages 7 to 16 with asthma to help relieve some of the fears associated with the disease.

This year's camp will be Aug. 11-17. Registration deadline is May 1.

Children will learn to understand and better manage their asthma through educational camp classes.

Topics include breathing exercises, understanding medications, recognizing potential causes of asthma attacks and simply coping with the limitations of having asthma. But these important lessons are enmeshed in a week of swimming, basketball, volleyball, fishing, arts and crafts, nature hikes and other fun activities.

All camp activities are designed to educate campers on safe recreational practices and are directed by qualified camp staff members.

Many of the children who attend the Boggy Creek Gang Camp are unable to attend other summer camps because of their illness. But this unique camping experience helps children with respiratory disease learn how to lead full and active lives while sharing similar experiences with other children. Special precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the children. Campers sleep and eat in air-conditioned facilities, which help reduce allergic reactions.

Each camp activity is reviewed and supervised by medical staff. Volunteer medical staff include doctors, nurses, pharmacists and respiratory therapists who are present at all times. They are selected for their knowledge of asthma and ability to work with children.

This camp was founded by actor Paul Newman and retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf as an expansion of Newman's Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn. Based on the vision of these founders, the cost is free to campers, but donations are accepted through the sponsoring agencies, such as the American Lung Association.

Transportation by bus from remote areas is available at specific locations.

Camper spots are still available for this year, and the registration deadline is May 1. There is also a tremendous need for individual and business sponsorships to help cover camp costs for the children ($500 per child).

For a camp application or for information about sponsoring a child or making a camp donation, please call the American Lung Association of Gulfcoast Florida at (800) LUNG-USA or (727) 347-6133.