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Camp Odayin

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Camps, Health, Heart & Circulatory System Diseases & Disorders, Recreation & Sports, Sports

Mission:

Camp Odayin provides fun, safe and supportive camp experiences and community building opportunities for young people with heart disease and their families.

Results: We welcomed our first 53 campers in 2002 and have experienced rapid growth every year since. In 2018 a total of 825 campers from 12 states participated in our camp experiences throughout the year.

Target demographics: Children with heart disease and their families

Programs: In an atmosphere designed to enhance self-esteem and acceptance of themselves and others, Odayin campers have the opportunity to come alive emotionally and physically in ways they never dreamed possible by reaching beyond their medical diagnosis. Camp Odayin's Residential Camp is for children grades 1-11 with heart disease and Day Camp is for children grades K-3. Family Camp is for families with a child of any age with heart disease. Camp Odayin provides educational activities and support for campers and their families. Camp Odayin has developed medical and counseling staff training materials and conducts training sessions prior to camp. Volunteers are educated regarding pediatric cardiac issues and appropriate responses to various situations.

Community Stories

82 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Dan AndJanet H.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I want to thank you for giving our daughter the opportunity to attend camp last week. Over the weekend we heard more and more about her week. She got to have experiences that she has never had before and she grew in many ways because of the opportunity. Unfortunately, due to her medical needs she has never been able to go to camp…because of your camps ability to meet the needs of kids with heart issues we as parents knew she would be safe and be well cared for…thank you! From the moment we checked in we felt welcomed and excited for the week ahead for Quinn. Your staff, volunteers and facility were first class. Thank you for going above and beyond what we could have dreamed for her. Many thanks and much appreciation to all!!! Dan and Janet Hellige

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin was an incredible experience for our family! There is so much encouragement and laughter to be found there!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin changes lives! Heart kids need safe places to go where everyone understands their situation and they get to just be campers - and not the kid with the scar taking special medicines and not being able to participate in all the activities. Heart kids leave camp confident and excited about life! Camp Odayin also changes the lives of family members through Family Camp and their Moms' Retreat where family members of heart kids get to connect with others managing through the same challenges and opportunities creating an incredible community of support for each other. And, spend any time with the staff and you will be completely inspired. Sara Meslow and team are completely committed to the mission and love what they do...impacting lives through every connection and program.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin is a fantastic charity that serves almost 1000 families every year. The impact of Camp Odayin has on the children and families served is significant and lasting. It is an honor to serve on the Board of this extraordinary organization.

The organization is led by a group of extraordinary employees.

Sarah C.11

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son has gone to Camp Odayin for three years in Wisconsin and it has been one of the best experiences. As a parent, we don't have to worry about explaining his medical condition and medications. He has met friends that he keeps in touch with and will hopefully for life. These are kids that have similar difficult experiences but when they go to camp, they are just kids having fun and having great experiences. This is a camp we could never afford on our own to send our son to. The counselors and staff are amazing. Thank you so much.

Tammy Speerbrecher T.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin came into our lives about 10 years ago and since then they have become our second family. Having a kido with CHD is about having a kid with special needs. Its such a daily journey, one that I would not wish on anyone to become a part of our "club" and yet its one of our biggest blessings ever. Camp Odayin is "our club" our support system, our place to "vent" about stuff no one else gets but other families walking in our shoes, some in front, (that encourage us), some behind us (that we encourage) and some right next to us that we hold hands with and cry and laugh with. Camp Odayin is networking with not just one or two people but a whole village that "has your back". The staff is amazing....they know us all by our first names year after year they welcome us back to each event just like family (actually better then family LOL! ;) ) We started out doing family camp with our heart kido, which gave him a chance to get to know the staff with us around and learn the fun routines that are unique and special to camp odayin, like (our very own theme song (singing it my head right now!!), the table cheers, and fun games ,and unforgettable squirrel dances! Our heart warrior has also been to the resident camp just for heart kids. It has given him a "safe place" to be himself and socialize among peers that know exactly how he feels about life with CHD. I have not yet been to a moms retreat, but I have heard so much about them.. Ihope to be part of that someday soon! There is something for the whole family with this group...Its an essential part of making life just a little bit easier when walking through the tough days.... Thank you for supporting this group, our friends, our family and making this world a happier place... because you can be happy if you let your self be, and that is what camp Odayin does!!! Love them so much! The Tomomitsu family

Cheri B.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

As a pediatric nurse, and ending my full-time career as a school nurse, I would tell families of heart kids about Camp Odayin. But I didn't fully appreciate what a difference it made in these kids lives, and the lives of their families, till I started to volunteer for the camp. The first year I volunteered at the residential camp in Cross Lake, MN for a week with middle school-aged kids. During that week, the kids developed such close friendships, seemed completely relaxed, yet fully engaged. They were just like every other kid who goes to camp, only many had a 'zipper' on their chest- and especially during swim time at the beach, it didn't matter! They fit in...they were just like everyone else! And in middle school especially, that is so important.
The paid staff, the volunteer counselors, volunteer nurses and volunteer cardiologists helped to make their week at camp the safest...and yet the most fun week. One of the highlights of the week is, of course, the Talent Show. I have never laughed so hard! What talent! What fun!
During the past few summers, I have been the Day Camp nurse for the 'littles', those campers who have finished K through 3rd grade. They are dipping their little toes into the world of going to camp, and soon they will be old enough, and confident enough, to attend the residential camp with these same campers whom they have grown to know.
Having worked with families of children with medical needs my entire career, I think one of the key words is 'trust'. When families trust the staff and know that their kids will be safe and taken care of, they are comfortable letting them just be a kid, away from home, sometimes for the very first time.
Camp Odayin changes lives and "makes a difference', and isn't that what it's all about!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin is a one-of-a-kind experience for heart kids and heart families. My son has attended summer camp for five years and it's been an empowering experience he otherwise would not have had. Our family also has attended family camp, which was a great experience too. I am forever indebted to Camp Odayin for the joy and positivity they've brought to our heart warrior.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin is a wonderful, well-run organization. It is amazing to meet children who have attended a camp or hear from parents whose lives have been affected by the Camp's work. The Camp provides a place for kids with heart disease to be themselves and connect with others to have great experiences and form life-long friendships.

Client Served

Rating: 5

She is not sociable in school, but really blooms at heart camp, family camp, and winter camp. She feels like she belongs, and everyone is like her. No one outside Camp Odayin family and friends truly understand. The camp helps her have fun, make friends, see old ones, and forget about everyday problems. Without this camp, we could not afford any other one. Any other camp would see her scars, and maybe solo her out or be scared. This camp has made sure she has matured to a beautiful, kind-hearted individual. They also have made our family feel important, and that we also aren't alone in difficult times, and happy times.

Melanie T.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are so extremely thankful for the experience our son was able to have this summer with Camp Odayin. To meet heart warriors of all ages and know he wasn’t the “different “ kid with a scar on this chest was a priceless gift. He learned new songs, tried new adventures, and made lifelong friends. Thank you isn’t enough!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin is my second home. It's the place where I found my lifelong friends that understand what I'm going through because they also have a long scar down their chest. Camp is where I became confident and found my calling in the healthcare field, to become an Echocardiographer. I am forever grateful for the positive memories and experiences I have had at the best place in the whole world. My best friend and I got matching tattoos with the camp logo & lyrics to the song we sang "You can be happy if you let yourself be". I also made a t-shirt quilt w/ all of my camp shirts, commemorating the many amazing summers and winters at Odayin. Thank you. ❤️

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin provides a great opportunity for my child who has a congenital heart defect. He has enjoyed being part of the Camp Odayin Family for more than eight years now. He has made an amazing life long friend, and this year as a middle schooler made many more great connections with kids like him. He's already talking about meeting up with some friends and can't wait for camp next summer.

Camp Odayin provides so many great opportunities for families to connect as well. All of the staff are amazing and care about each camper as individuals. I am so pleased with all of our interactions with this organization.

Thanks, Camp Odayin, for being an amazing part of our family!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin is just amazing! They support not only Heart Kids but the entire family!

Jennifer Needham B.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin is AMAZING. The experiences that we have had through this organization are so rich and have become an integral part of our family.

Our daughter was born with a complex set of heart defects and one would never know it to look at her. One would never guess, from her everyday appearance and manner, that she has already endured 2 open heart surgeries in her 11 years and has more to come. But we know. And she definitely knows. And through Camp Odayin, we have found a home. A group of families that really understand what it is like to walk the halls of the Cardiac ICU at 3am. Families that have faced seemingly insurmountable medical struggles and come out on the other side. Our daughter has found a tribe...kids who share the same scars and "war wounds"...kids who face the same health struggles and symptoms...kids who really understand the anxiety that comes with the uncertain future of being a CHD kid. Camp Odayin has helped my daughter find her place in this world. Her experiences at camp have built her up...all while giving her a safe place to land.

From family camp to residential camp...Camp Odayin holds a place in our hearts...in the fabric of our family...that will forever be woven with unbreakable bonds. We are forever grateful.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our Son has a serious heart defect that makes our lives allot "different" from the normal family..daily medication, monthly (or more) doctor visits, extra precautions, disrupted events, and additional stress is just a little bit of what we deal with out of the love for him. No one "gets this" like other heart families, Camp Odayin is where we can all feel "normal" in the big group, we are not the minority here! We laugh, cry and share and learn from each other and come home with life long friendships that will support us all year long. Our family becomes closer as we learn we are not the only ones "dealing with this" we can de-stress and talk about ways to do make life better/easier. The camp staff always has great activities planned that takes us out of our "comfort zone" and lets us be silly in a way that makes lasting memories. We love Camp Odayin!

Ann Y.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We are a family of four; our oldest child has a heart defect. Family Camp Odayin is a time for us as a whole family (not just the kids) to spend time connecting with eachother and connecting with other families who also have a child with a heart defect. We share similar experiences, hopes, and fears. Attending Family Camp Odayin makes us feel less alone and more "normal". The staff are outstanding; the facilities are outstanding; the cost is negligible. Five stars. Highly recommend.

Monica89

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter started attending Camp Odayin at age 8 and "graduated" this past summer at age 17. Camp Odayin has always been the high light of the year for her. It gave her something to look forward to when things were tough. She has made some great friends through camp that truly understand what it's like to face the reality of having a chronic heart condition and the limitations that come with it. The staff is absolutely amazing at making these kiddo's feel good about their heart conditions and boosting their self-esteem. We are so thankful to be part of the Camp Odayin family!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our daughter was born with 3 heart defects; Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Connection, ASD, VSD. She also suffered from frequent respiratory issues and could not handle heat and humidity well. As she began to get older, she wanted to do things other kids did and she longed for a little bit of independence. We heard about a new camp for heart kids. Because there was a cardiologist present 24/7, and nurses, and air conditioning in the cabins, we decided to let her try going to camp. She was 9 years old and part of the very first group at Camp Odayin in 2002.
To say it was a wonderful experience for her is really quite inadequate. She made life-long friends at Odayin. She gained independence and confidence. She didn't feel like she was the only one with a scar who had to be careful about what she did. The highlight of EVERY summer from then on was Camp Odayin. The beautiful thing for us as parents was that we honestly never worried about her safety and health. We knew she was in good hands and that she was having a great time. For kids like our daughter, Camp Odayin is the only option for experiencing camp because no other camp can take care of the health problems and emotional insecurities that accompany heart kids.
Our daughter is now all grown-up. She graduated from college, has an excellent job, and is living on her own. We thought that her days of Camp Odayin were sadly over- but no! She went back as a camp counselor in 2015 and plans to do so again in 2017! Thank you, Camp Odayin for being there for our daughter. She wouldn't be the confident, independent young woman she is today without you!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin went out of their way to help get my daughter there! The staff are all incredibly kind and genuine. Since she was little, my daughter has hated being "different" and at Camp Odayin, for the first time, she wasn't different. She was just a kid enjoying camp.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I began attending Camp Odayin at age 10 and went every summer for 7 years. This camp does more than just give kids with heart disease an opportunity to attend summer camp. It is a place where those kids can meet others, share their story, and realize they are not alone in their experiences. It is a place where those kids are able to act silly while growing confident in themselves. A place where scars are the norm and a family is made from the memories. The staff is amazing and the life lessons just as valued. A place where I learned that "all of our hearts are deeper than you can see, you can be happy if you let yourself be!"

Alishea D.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am a former camper of Odayin and I've never felt more at home. Being with other kids with the same scar and/or the same heart condition makes you feel normal. Camp Odayin is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My name is Evan Jasnoch and I am 19 years old. I've been going to Camp Odayin every summer for as long as I can remember. For a place that deals specifically with kids with heart conditions, they do a wonderful job of helping kids accept who they are and allow them to have a true summer camp experience, undeterred by their conditions. I've never felt more safe or unafraid of who I am or what has happened to me, because at Camp Odayin I know that I am not alone, and that my condition makes me special but does not hold me back from living my life.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

my daughter has gone to Camp Odayin for her 4th year, this year. It is her favorite place to go in the summer. I asked her the first time she came back from camp, what her favorite part, and she responded "they didn't judge me for my scar." that was the best feeling to me because now she can see other kids with the same kind of condition and see that everyone is the same and it is not stopping her from being her and fulfilling her dreams.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son loves Camp Odayin! It is his favorite week of the year! He comes home every summer to tell us it was the best year ever! We always laugh as we hear that year after year! The staff and volunteers are awesome!

LizMat T.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Odayin is the most outstanding youth organization for kids with heart disease/defects. Our son loves going to camp. It is the highlight of his summer. Our family vacations are scheduled around this camp. We are blessed to know and be apart of this fantastic nonprofit. Keep up all the great work! Tauer Family

1 Jim_63

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son is a graduate this year with great saddness from Camp Odayin in other words he will be 18 and over the age to go next year. this was his 10th year of camp and each year as camp gets closer he has been remembering and talking about his friends and previous years experiences. Camp Odayin has given him self confidence and taught him he is not alone with a chest scar and previous heart problem. The staff and Counselors have been very profesional while making this a fun experience for the kids. The cost for this great camp has been minimal especialy when you get to see the pictures of all the activites and all the smiles on kids that just may not have had another chance to go to a summer camp

Client Served

Rating: 5

Every year this is one of my son's favorite weeks. The activities, staff and fellow campers are amazing. What a great organization! My son's comment when he arrived home "Mom, that was an awesome week!" and for a teenager to say that....pretty incredible!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Just finished my 10th or 11th week as a volunteer at Camp Odayin. The experience continues to inspire me. The children attending camp and the vounteers continue to bring endless positve energy and positive experiences for all. It is hard to imagine how the camp can improve, but somehow every year it gets better!
Keep up the great work!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Thank you again for another great summer camp experience! My son got in the car yesterday and said, “Mom, that was by far the best year ever!” As we continued to talk about things that happened that week he said, “I love it because everyone is on level ground. There aren’t clicks. There aren’t the jocks, the nerds....we are all the same. It’s not like that at school.”


I know what you do takes a tremendous amount of planning and coordinating but every minute of it paid off! When you cheer for every camper that comes in and identify something specific about them they are really good at...it makes such a huge difference to who they believe they are.

What an extraordinary group of people!

1

Donor

Rating: 5

This is the best camp in the State of Minnesota. I work in the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota and recruit medical, nursing, pharmacy, and other health professional students to volunteer at Camp Odayin. These students are in the midst of intensely rigorous academic programs yet care enough to volunteer their experience and skills to make a difference in the lives of the kids at camp in the very limited break they have from classes and rotations. They are also young enough (most in their early to mid-twenties) to be able to relate to the camper population, engage with them, and have fun with them. Perhaps best of all, because the camp is run on an almost entirely volunteer population, the only cost to campers and their families is a $25 registration fee which includes the entire week of camp experiences and activities! The families are so lucky to have the opportunity to attend a camp which focuses on kids with heart issues. I'm a huge fan of Camp Odayin.

1

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been a Camp Odayin board member for 5 years and I can attest to the professionalism with which this organization pursues its mission. The staff are committed, qualified and passionate about what they do. The well-being of the campers is always #1 - as it should be. I am proud to be associated with Camp Odayin.

1

Client Served

Rating: 1

Disappointed in the Training of the counselors/staff - as they take volunteers-it's very transient. Kids with heart disease are affected emotionally more than just limited activities. All the fun camp stuff is great but these kids have things going on and they admit they aren't prepared to deal with them - though they advertise they give emotional guidance and direction and support.
The volunteer staff don't realize that as its short term good intention for them and they are following the leadership who doesn't want any disagreements. any disruptions just need to just go away until they are done at the end of the week. They could teach in that moment instead their leadership finds someone to take the blame, and any challenge and it comes down harder and harder.

I was asked to take my review down - but I said I wouldn't as I think if unread this I would've realized it wasn't a fit for my son. It might be for some - but he just isn't happy and felt the opposite of accepted seeing how things were run with him and others.

My kid was recently diagnosed 2 years ago and had 2 heart surgeries, where a lot of kids who attend were born with issues, the personal outlooks are different. Levels of limitations through life and understanding and acceptance differ. This camp is very very structured in activity, but not counseling or emotional needs which we believed were going to be the key component we were looking for. My kid hasn't been restricted before and wasn't now, so the activity level was less challenging then other camps so wasn't as impressed as other kids are, and the emotional value we hoped to get wasn't there. My kid felt like an outsider. So I guess when filling out the application and the mention the "right fit" this is what they are talking about and for the right camper it is.
The wrong fit can be harmful.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This summer will be my sixth summer as a camp nurse at Odayin. When I signed up six years ago, I was expecting to enjoy a week away at camp, on a lake, with some fun kids. What I ended up with was a life-changing week and a second "family." The kids weren't just fun, they were amazing. I was with the oldest kids (ages 14-17) and was blown away by the respect and concern they showed for others. Everyone was included, no matter their looks or level of ability. As someone who has worked with kids for years, this was nothing short of amazing (especially for teens!). At camp there are no bullies or hurt feelings; only friends, encouragement, and smiles. The kids make life-long friends and it is pretty cool to see.

Camp itself is also like nothing I ever experienced in my days at camp as a kid. The cabins are clean and comfortable, the food tastes great, and the activities for the kids are ridiculously awesome. The summer staff up at Camp K are super qualified and always have fun things planned.

Lastly, the Odayin staff and volunteers are great. The staff are organized and enthusiastic. They treat the volunteers and kids with the utmost appreciation and respect. The volunteers are awesome people with huge hearts. I have made some of my closest friends with fellow staff and volunteers at camp.

Camp really is just one of the most fun, amazing, life-changing places in the world. It is not an understatement to call Odayin a "family." I hope to still be volunteering there as a nurse in thirty years when I am old and gray!

Monique L.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our son Kyle has been diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome. Kyle attended Camp Odayin for the first time last summer and had an experience he will never forget. For the first time since he was diagnosed he had the freedom and the confidence to join in and forget about his condition and limitations. Camp Odayin creates a magical safe exciting place for sick kids to blend in and enjoy being a kid.