Hearts of Gold Summer Camp

A gold heart sits on top of a curled gold ribbon.

By Joanne Lohr

Camp is something every kid looks forward to. They say camp changes a kid, in this case it changed a teenager. It’s a time to be free, with few rules, no school and a chance to be with friends. That was my first impression of camp. This time I had to be with kids who were like me: youths who had heart conditions.

When Vancouver Island Hearts of Gold coordinator, Krista, told us about a weekend with the youths from Vancouver at Camp Summit I immediately wanted to go. I thought of the people that I would meet that felt, in some ways, the same way I do, or the kind of people they were going to be. Questions kept running through my head: will I get along with everyone? Will they be like me? What should I say to them? Even though I had gotten to know other youths from the island I was still nervous and yet very very excited to meet Vancouver’s youths.

Preparations for camp came closer and closer and the youths of Vancouver Island Hearts of Gold had a dinner meeting about camp. We talked about cabins and the food and the counsellors and the other youths. As the weekend came closer I could hardly wait. Not only would I be spending a weekend at camp, but I would be at a camp with kids who understood what I go through everyday of my life, every hospital trip, all the times I had to explain why there was a scar on my chest, and all the other things a youth who has a heart condition has to deal with.

I came home with so many stories, stories of friends, campfires, jokes, counsellors, and everything else that happened. I could hardly wait to go back the next year. As the second year came around the corner, I realized that camp was coming closer and closer. Another dinner meeting came and we discussed the old times we had at camp and convinced other campers to come. The second time around didn’t disappoint me. In the girl’s cabin, we didn’t necessarily talk about our hearts, but of summer and school and boys, stuff “regular” girls would talk about.

Year three. My close friend Coral and I talked on the ferry about everything we’ve experienced over the past two years. We couldn’t wait to go back a third time, we knew we’d have a blast, and have more adventures and meet even more friends. Words can’t describe what year three was like. I met more youths, had bigger campfires, stayed up later, ate more food. I didn’t want it to end. Sadly after a weekend I’d never forget, I sat on the bus with all the youths of the camp and rode home. If there are any other youths out there who haven’t gone to Hearts of Gold camp, you are missing out…BIG TIME.

The Children’s Heart Network offers two summer camps: one for children ages 8 to 12 and one for youth ages 13 to 19.