by Johanna Kendall

Of all the events the Children’s Heart Network has organized, one of my favourites so far has been the opportunity to go to Camp Thunderbird on Vancouver Island at the beginning of June.

I was first introduced to the CHN ten years ago while I was pregnant with my son Dylan and we learned he would be born with Tetralogy of Fallot.

I started meeting other heart moms. I had a phone conversation with one to learn about her daughter and her family’s experience. Then I got to meet another during my visits to the hospital for check-ups.

The CHN has been a part of our family’s life ever since. It was nice to know there were others like us facing similar challenges and there was going to be support to get us through them.

From the time Dylan was born, the CHN organized all kinds of fun activities. There were coffee groups for parents and Christmas parties, Easter egg hunts, bowling, and pumpkin patch visits for the kids, to name a few.

And then there was Camp Thunderbird. We didn’t get a lot of sleep on this trip, but we got to meet some pretty cool kids and their families.

My son, husband and I shared a cabin with two other families. We kept busy throughout the weekend. There was archery practice, rock climbing and crafts. Other activities included swimming, canoeing, a game of tag that taught the kids about the predator/prey dynamic in nature, and Ga-ga Ball, which was Dylan’s favourite.

On our last night, we were treated to a campfire and a lovely rendition of “Riptide” sung by the camp leaders. Following that, they performed an improv skit of “Beans, the Musical” with one round performed by a handful of impressively talented heart kids. (The grown-ups were too chicken to join in.)

We all laughed a lot that evening as the sun set.

What I valued most about Camp Thunderbird were meal times when we could sit and chat with other parents. The chance to get to know other families a little deeper set this event apart from the others.

For Dylan, it was all about the fun. However, I know he benefits from hanging out and playing with kids that, like him, are pretty normal, but who are also different because they are heart kids who have had some serious surgeries and plenty more visits to the doctor.

We were very fortunate that, since Dylan’s heart surgery, at only four and a half months old, his health has been relatively uncomplicated. With the way the health professionals swooped in and saved the day, I’ve been amazed by our health-care system and how well it has looked after my son.

And I’ve been just as happy with how the Children’s Heart Network has been there for us. ♥

Parachute games, canoeing, rock climbing, archery, and Tristan and Dylan at the GaGa Ball.

“Fun and connection with families at Camp Thunderbird” is from our summer 2018 newsletter, Heart Matters. See our Newsletters page for more stories and to subscribe.