Little Heart Heroes

Pediatric resident develops a camp for kids

Alexander Sorochan - 03 June 2019

Summer camp is a rite of passage for many kids. It's a time for them to experience independence while participating in fun activities and also a great way to meet new friends. For children with complex chronic medical conditions, like those with heart disease, summer camp is not as accessible as it is for others. That's why Devin Chetan, a pediatric resident, created The Little Heart Heroes Fund and the Heart Heroes Camp.

The inspiration for the summer camp stemmed from Chetan's interactions with families during his medical training. "If we can make things a little bit easier for the kids and their families and give them a chance they otherwise wouldn't get, that's what it's all about for us," says Chetan.

The Little Heart Heroes programs were created to promote independence among campers and allow them to discover they aren't alone-other kids have faced similar challenges. The main event every summer is Heart Heroes Camp, a medically-supervised summer camp for children born with heart disease. For one weekend, nurses and doctors from the Stollery Children's Hospital become camp counsellors and take over the medical care for these children to ensure that all the kids and their families have to worry about is having fun.

"It was really interesting to see kids at camp comparing sternotomy scars and medical experiences. They were talking about all the things they could and couldn't do. It was so nice to see them bond as they realized that there were other kids who were just like them," Chetan says. "When one child wasn't able to do something, the rest of the group banded together to support and encourage one another."

The Little Heart Heroes Fund also offers a day camp for younger children. This program serves as a bridge for both the children and parents to reduce anxiety around sending their child away to attend the weekend-long program, develop more confidence and independence, and meet their peers and the Heart Heroes team.

Both of the Little Heart Heroes programs are free for all campers, so no child is excluded for financial reasons. Funds are raised through special events, community sponsorship, and donations to The Little Heart Heroes Fund, in association with the Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation.

So far, The Little Heart Heroes Fund and Heart Heroes Camp have been a major success. Feedback from the parents and children has been amazing, and many of the children who attended the first year have returned.