Owensboro Health hosts 20th annual Camp Wheeze Away

Photo by Jack Dobbs, Messenger-Inquirer/jdobbs@messenger-inquirer.com Camp Wheeze Away counselor Savannah Barnett helps camp participant Bryer Hardin with a coloring sheet. “I think it’s great that all these kids get together and learn that they can do things like swimming and other activities even though they have a respiratory illness,” Barnett said.

Asthma is the leading medical condition among children in the United States, with one in 11 children under the age of 10 afflicted by the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Because of this, Owensboro Health this week hosted a special program to educate children with asthma on the condition and how to treat it.

The program, known as Camp Wheeze Away, has taken place every summer for 20 years.

Dr. Lee Clore, who works at Owensboro Health as an allergy and asthma specialist, oversees the camp.

"The big thing for me over 20 years is that you get to see other kids that have the same problem," Clore said. "And you realize you're not so handicapped."

Clore said that since Camp Wheeze Away began, between 1,000 and 1,200 kids have attended the program. This year, Clore said the program had about 30 campers enrolled.

One of the campers in this year's program is 9-year-old Foster Dalton. Dalton said he has attended the program the past two years.

"I like it," Dalton said. "I like meeting new people."

Dalton said he won the program's banana boat race.

In this competition, the campers each build their own miniature sailboat. The boats are placed in a water-filled gutter and the contestant blows in the sail to make the boat move.

The competition aims to teach the contestants different breathing techniques that will allow them to better cope with their asthma.

Clore said that some of the campers return later to volunteer as counselors. One of those is Aidan Robinson.

Robinson said counseling is very different from participating as a camper.

"You know everything so if anyone has any questions about any programs or anything, you can answer them because you've been a camper," Robinson said.

The program is free for parents, funded completely by charitable contributions and volunteer work.

The cost to run the program each year is about $5,000.

"We've always had enough just to make it work,' Clore said.

Clore also said that on the last day of the program, a question and answer session for the parents is provided, where any questions parents may have about asthma and related conditions can ask Clore directly.

"We'll answer questions until there aren't any more," Clore said.

Clore also said that there is a high social stigma around childhood asthma.

The program takes place at Owensboro Health Healthpark, at 1006 Ford Ave. According to Owensboro Health's website, the program is open to local children ages 6 to 10.

Camp Wheeze Away takes place the second week of June every year.

Jack Dobbs, 270-691-7360, jdobbs@messenger-inquirer.com

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