Follow Your Heart It Will Take You … To Amazing Places

Because LIFE Happens.                     19787510_10209329360578698_3134787944810571897_o

Part One.

I recently asked my daughter to summarize what Camp Bravehearts means to her. 

It really doesn’t take to long to know why we embrace with so, so much passion to “give back” and shared love for those BraveHearts. Yes, we are the encouragers, the motivators, the cheerleaders, those with positive attitudes and “NEVADIVUP” mantra. And it definitely doesn’t take a long time to know why we take pride in every little victory!

Life is more challenging for the chronically ill. So those little victories are much bigger for us.  It’s taken me a very long time to put in writing all that she’s been through.  It’s just my nature to let her tell her “own” story.  And something I will always do. Those who have given her the strength and character to fight through her own concerns have taught her to give what you receive and Samantha’s passionate soul inspires others as well to give back.  She’s the reason we continue to support “heart-related” causes.  I admire each and every family I meet, you truly inspire me. Honestly, I am one of those mom’s that “tear’s up” each and every time I hear her say that Bravehearts are “her second family”. They really are not like a second family. They are Family! I don’t know what it’s like to have chronic medical condition that no one understands, but I do know because of Camp Braveheart and so many others who have given of their time and compassionate hearts that camp is a “paradise” where these children with physical limitations can be “normal”. It is a place where they can interact with other children with heart disease and experience a feeling of identity and belonging. I’m pretty sure my fellow Braveheart parents will agree.

Samantha is, in part, who she is today because of the support received from this group of individuals. Adversity breeds not only compassion but success. What gifts are given to us we should pass on to others. That Attitude of Gratitude.

Part Two.    19989669_10209329394179538_3436272852082433021_n
Samantha (My BraveHeart) writes,

Have you ever experienced just hanging out with friends and all of the sudden your out of breath or feel like your going to pass out because your trying to keep up with your “normal” friends?  Or, what if you have a “zipper- like” scar line going down your chest (what many who go to Camp BraveHearts call a “zipper”) and none of your friends have it?  Or you just want to feel “normal” and talk with friends (your own age) about “normal” kid things (normal to you) not just about your medical condition? And not about why you can’t … and you want to talk about why you can!

There is a camp out there on 168 acres of a former family farm in Scottsville, Kentucky called Camp BraveHearts and this past week we celebrated it’s 20th year anniversary!

I have been going to Camp BraveHearts since 2003, I was 10 year old when I became a Braveheart camper. The camp began in 1997 at a place called, Trooper Island at Dale Hollow Lake.  After hosting the Camp on site at Dale Hollow for ten years Camp directors with the assistance from Norton’s Children’s Hospital moved to the present site at The Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, Kentucky and have been there since 2008.

At Camp BraveHearts kids can go have fun without having a care in the world and just be a “normal” kid with their friends or as I call it my second family.  The camp gives children with heart disease a slice of summer fun and place to be a kid. I have now spent a little more than half my life with this group of people and I could not be more thankful for my Camp family! The camp was started by Dennis and Joyce McClain, Dr.Boone, Dr.Sobczyk, and many other cardiologists from around the city of Louisville. I can not be more thankful for the continued dedication and leadership of this group of volunteers for their continue efforts on behalf of the BraveHeart beat.

At the camp kids get to go swimming and not be afraid to show off their scars because there are many kids with the same scars. Some feel so at ease among new friends that they compare their incisions with each other. They get to go fishing, boating, ride horses, learn how to do archery, do some cooking classes, arts and crafts, woodshop, and bowling just to name a few of the activities. The best part of the week “in my eye” literally,  (ha,ha) is the messy games, which is really just a big giant food fight that consist of the kids basically sliming their counselors all messy with pudding, shaving cream, paint, chuck chuck ( which consists of oatmeal and paint), slime (basically ice cream and paint), and jello water. At the end of messy games is big water fight, obviously designed to help get some of the messiness off. During the water fight The Scottsville Fire Department brings one of their fire trucks and drops down the hose for the kids to splash around in the water ( Thank you Scottsville Fire Department!)

On the final full day all campers, staff, and counselors wear the same color camp shirts that this year happened to be tie dyed and they walk or run around the courtyard for BraveHearts call the Try-Athlete Trot. This trot raises money for camp. As an Alum this year I started a fun challenge in recognition for our Ol’ Trooper Island Gang.

The camp is free to all campers so this money helps fund each camper and the transportation who choose to take the bus that leaves Louisville. The Chartered bus also makes pit stops along the route to pick up campers in Elizabethtown before getting to CCK. So 14 “Cheers” to my 14th summer at Camp BraveHearts and the 20th year for Camp BraveHearts ! I could not be more thankful for this wonderful camp for bringing me some of my best friends who I consider family. For more information and how to become a Braveheart camper, please contact either The Center for Courageous Kids or Norton’s Children’s Hospital Foundation (Bravehearts).

The BraveHeart Beat Continues! 
Samantha Stallings 

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