Career Enrichment: Asthma Camps are Fun for Campers and RTs Too

image of child working through ropes course

Yes, you want to advance your career in respiratory care. But advancement alone doesn’t equal job satisfaction. For that you need enrichment. Two AARC members have found it through their long-time involvement in summer camps for children with asthma.

Happy Hollow

Debbie Koehl, MS, RRT, RRT-NPS, FAARC, has been working at an asthma camp held each year at Happy Hollow Children’s Camp in Nashville, IN, for more than 30 years now.

“I first started with camp in 1985 when a former friend and colleague took me to camp,” she said. ”She was wanting to find someone to take it over.”

Koehl had a great time and has been the camp’s medical staff coordinator ever since. She recruits all the staff members needed to ensure the camp runs smooth, and is also responsible for acquiring the correct medical documentation for all the campers, reviewing their applications, setting policies, and orienting staff to the camp program and asthma educational activities.

The overnight camp takes place every summer and runs from Sunday through Friday.
The children participate in all the regular camp activities, and asthma education is provided through the Asthma Consortium and daily lessons.

“Since we are a medical camp, we have also been able to accommodate kids who really could not attend other camps,” Koehl said. ”We have kids with CPAP, vests, and other medical issues that would not allow them to go to camp unless we were there.”

Camp Happy Hollow helps with camp expenses by holding fundraisers for the camp, and the camp also receives support from a local church and the Tony Stewart Foundation.

Koehl says getting to spend a week with children with asthma is the best part of the camp for her and she loves seeing them learn more about their condition while having a great time. Reconnecting with fellow volunteers — many of them fellow RTs or RT students — always raises her spirits too.

“Our asthma camp medical staff is like a family and it is a great reunion week every summer,” she said. An annual volleyball game pitting the medical staff against the camp staff, with the children rooting their favorite team on, is always a highlight of the week for her.

“It’s fun, and the medical staff has dominated for years,” says Koehl — despite being older, on average, than the camp staff and only playing volleyball once a year at camp.

Upward Bound

Upward Bound Asthma Camp has been operating for 28 years now and Arnold Young, BA, RRT, RRT-NPS, has been involved since the beginning. He’s served as camp director since 1994 and says he enjoys helping the children understand their triggers and how to keep their asthma under control.

Sponsored by Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono in East Stroudsburg, PA, the three-day, two-night sleepover camp is held the third or fourth week of June and is designed for children age 7-13.

“The campers do team challenges, scavenger hunts, canoeing, archery, fishing,” Young said. “The education sessions are throughout the entire camp.”

A quiz is given before each meal and one-hour group sessions and individual sessions are used to go over asthma signs, symptoms, triggers, and medications.

Young says the camp grew out of a growing awareness among him and his colleagues that children with asthma needed more education to avoid emergency department visits and hospitalizations and minimize missed days of school.

“The best part of volunteering at camp is knowing that by educating the campers we are helping them to be made aware of their triggers and how to control their asthma on their own and to assist with their treatment plan,” Young said. “Knowing if I only help one camper to survive an exacerbation means that we were successful with our camp.”