EUREKA, Missouri — Corwin Pherson had never been to an overnight camp before. He was up at 5 a.m. the first morning, waiting for the rest of the cabin to wake up.
The 9-year-old from Waterloo, Missouri, isn’t sure what it’s called — the heart problem he was born with. He knows he’s had like 17 surgeries, three big open-heart ones. He takes pills and needs an inhaler.
Corwin’s cabin started the day on the ropes course. First stop, a 30-foot climbing wall. The small boy pointed to it, wide-eyed. “I’m going to dare myself to go all the way up there,” he said.
Children with heart conditions got to experience the fears and joys of summer camp last week at one created just for them: Camp Rhythm.
Founded 13 summers ago by a cardiology nurse at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, it has grown to attract children from all over the Midwest. With funding from the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation, kids attend at no cost.
The first summer, the camp hosted just 32 overnight campers and seven day campers ages 5 to 7.
This past week saw quadruple that — 135 overnight campers and 38 day campers.
They were led by more than 50 volunteer counselors and junior counselors, some of whom were among the first campers.
Camp Rhythm may seem like any other with fishing, arts and crafts, field games and a dance on the last night. But it requires much more than sunscreen, bug spray and Band-Aids.
A cardiologist stays at the camp for the week. Three nurses staff a well-equipped infirmary around the clock. Surrounding fire and police departments are alerted. There’s a designated spot for a medical helicopter to land.
Every morning at breakfast and every evening at dinner, 10 volunteer nurses prepare each child’s medications and call them in by cabin to a room off the…