American Heart Association makes summer camp a reality for kids with heart ailments

Attending an overnight summer camp poses health risks for kids with heart conditions, but the American Heart Association's Heart Heroes Florida makes it possible for Tampa Bay area children.
This week, the American Heart Association’s Heart Heroes Florida sent 30 Tampa Bay area kids to Camp Boggy Creek near Orlando. The 232-acre camp is designed for children who have cardiovascular diseases that could prevent them from attending a typical summer camp. [Photo courtesy of Chris Dorsey, American Heart Association]
This week, the American Heart Association’s Heart Heroes Florida sent 30 Tampa Bay area kids to Camp Boggy Creek near Orlando. The 232-acre camp is designed for children who have cardiovascular diseases that could prevent them from attending a typical summer camp. [Photo courtesy of Chris Dorsey, American Heart Association]
Published June 13

Summertime is here and while many kids prepare to attend summer camp, children coping with cardiovascular diseases don’t have the same luxury.

The American Heart Association reports that congenital heart defects are the leading birth defect in the United States and the No. 1 killer of infants with birth defects.

These serious medical conditions often prevent children from attending a typical summer camps. But thanks to the American Heart Association Heart Heroes Florida, more than 150 children from around the state have the same opportunity.

On Monday, The American Heart Association's Heart Heroes Florida sent about 30 kids from the Tampa Bay area to Camp Boggy Creek near Orlando, where for six days they will be able to enjoy fishing, boating and performing arts and crafts without worrying about their medical conditions.

The 232-acre camp has around-the-clock medical staff present, including a cardiologist and nurse, and an on-site clinic in case of an emergency.

It's a relief for parents like Lisa Britt, who never thought her kids would be able to go to summer camp.

"It's wonderful because they are just like any other kid," she said. "They don't have to think about their heart condition.”

Britt lives in New Tampa with her husband and fraternal twin daughters, Claire and Ava. Her 10-year-olds battle two different heart defects — Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which can cause periods of rapid heart rate due to an extra electrical pathway in the heart, and Ventricular Tachycardia, a fast, abnormal heart rate that can become life-threatening.

With their conditions, Britt was always fearful about sending them to camp, worried they'd get busy playing and forget to take their medicine. But Camp Boggy Creek eliminates that fear.

This marks their second year attending, and they can’t wait to go.

"They've had their bags packed for over a month," she said. "They've literally been living out of their suitcases."

Contact Monique Welch at mwelch@tampabay.com or Follow Mo_UNIQUE_ .

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