We’re strong. We’re proud. We’re yelling really loud!

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Girls of all ages are moving around the room to choreographed dance moves, singing while reenacting the “Cups” song with plastic cups from a cafeteria. The boys, not to be outdone, are pounding tables with their fists and screaming as loud as they can. More than 150 children and adults are yelling and chanting the same words over and over again. While this may seem like a picture of complete chaos, it is a typical meal time ritual for campers at Camp Pump-It-Up.

Camp Pump-It-Up is a camp specifically designed for children and teenagers who have been affected by congenital heart defects. Every April, around 125 Texas Children’s patients and their siblings spend a weekend at the Camp For All campgrounds in Burton, Texas, fishing, riding horses, dancing and zip-lining with other kids who have a similar diagnosis. This location offers a unique and barrier-free camp opportunity that allows kids to be kids, despite their physical limitations or medical situation. Many of the children who attend Camp Pump-It-Up are unable to attend other summer camps because of their medical complexity.

This special weekend allows children to meet other kids who may have shared similar experiences. Often, children find strength from sharing their experiences of hospitalizations, taking medication and having surgeries. This camp provides them with a sense of normalcy by allowing them the opportunity to do camp activities like any other kid.

Camp Pump-It-Up is staffed by a large group of Texas Children’s employees, mostly from the Heart Center, as well as volunteers. Hospital staff at camp include physicians, nurses, social workers, child life specialists and physical and occupational therapists. The staff benefit from camp as much as the campers. We are able to see these patients outside of the hospital setting enjoying life like any other child. Thanks to the generosity of volunteer counselors and donors, Camp Pump-It-Up is able to make camp safe and fun.

“Pump it up. Come on let’s heart it! Pump it up and show your spirit!”

Campers are still dancing and singing, yelling and clapping. Counselors are holding kids up in a theatric interpretation of The Lion King. The meal hall at Camp For All is buzzing. Why? Each cabin is looking to take home the coveted Spirit Stick…and be the first group in line for dinner. The camp staff has a tough choice to make. You wouldn’t think by watching this scene that kids would have so much energy after climbing, running and riding horses all day. You’d never know by watching them that many of these children have overcome some of the biggest obstacles in life. Those are the exact moments that make Camp Pump-It-Up so special.

If you are interested in having your child attend Camp Pump-It-Up, please speak with their cardiologist. If you are interested in being a volunteer counselor at Camp Pump-It-Up, you can contact Robin Schlosser at rrschlos@texaschildrens.org.

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About Sara Reynolds, child life specialist

I am a certified child life specialist atTexas Children’s Hospital Heart Center. I enjoy educating and preparing patients and families for open heart surgery to help them better understand and cope with their hospitalizations. In the past 10 years of work in child life, I have been part of multiple camps, roasted 100’s of marshmallows and made extra special memories with our campers.
Posted in Community, Heart, Surgery

One Response to We’re strong. We’re proud. We’re yelling really loud!

  1. Deitra Brown, Assitant Clinical Director - 15WT says:

    Great post Sara! The five months of preparation, numerous emails, faxes, and phone calls are worth being a part of the great memories our patients make during this special weekend. The Heart Center staff truly demonstrate the culture of TCH as many of them volunteer to participate in camp on their day off or using their PTO. I am proud to be a part of the Heart Center and the Camp Pump It Up planning committee.

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