This summer, members of the Innovation Compounding team, Joelle Hodges and Jonathan O’Connor, volunteered their time for Camp Breathe Easy, “a six-day, five-night residential camp for children ages 7-13 with asthma” ranging from mild to severe. 2018 marks the 38th year of CBE and was held at Camp Will-A-Way in Winder, GA. CBE is operated by the American Lung Association and aims “to promote self-confidence and responsibility in campers while helping them to learn to manage their own asthma.”
Joelle Hodges, Innovation’s head of human resources as well as a registered nurse, started volunteering for CBE as a pediatric pulmonologist nurse. During her first week, Joelle says, “I saw scared kids with no idea how to handle their disease progress to almost complete independence before they went home. When Camp Breathe Easy first started, kids did not have any other camp they could attend due to their disease. It was important to the founders for these children to lead as normal of a life as possible, including a camp experience.”
Like most summer camps, activities include swimming, fishing, archery, canoeing, horseback riding, tennis, ropes course, arts and crafts, among others; additionally, campers are given age and grade-level appropriate asthma courses by professional asthma educators to teach them about asthma triggers, early warning signs, physical clues, current treatments, and self-management.
Most of the campers who come to CBE are from the inner city of Atlanta and have not had much exposure to the outdoors. Many kids who arrive never having been near a pool nor seen a horse often leave with the confidence to swim and ride like the other kids. Joelle says that seeing “the joy they exude and the confidence they leave with makes my heart happy.”
Joelle now serves as CBE’s Nursing Director and is in charge of the medical team—making the schedule, overseeing the activities, and supporting the medical team so it runs smoothly. Should emergencies arise, the medical team is prepared to handle any situation. Fortunately, according to Joelle, asthma these days “is well controlled on the new medications, so we see more scraped knees and pool toe than asthma exacerbations.” She adds, “I’d love to see this continue to where we become a camp full of healthy kids who are there more for education to manage their disease.”
While the cost for one camper can be more than $1000, many generous donors have brought down the total camp fees to only $275 per camp. If you would like to be part of Camp Breathe Easy, there are many volunteer positions, all of which are an important part of the camp experience.
You may find you feel like Joelle, who says, “I come back year after year because of the joy it brings, to myself and all the campers.”