Home > Blog > August 2016 > Pima Medical Students Teach Kids How to Cope with Asthma at Champ Camp

Pima Medical Students Teach Kids How to Cope with Asthma at Champ Camp

Posted: August 9, 2016 by Elizabeth Baker

Several respiratory therapy students from Pima Medical Institute’s Denver campus recently returned from Champ Camp, where they helped dozens of children learn how to manage their asthma symptoms while having lots of fun doing it.

Each year, Pima Medical students and Respiratory Therapy Program Director, Mark Merritt, go to the camp, where children ages 7 to 14 participate in numerous outdoor activities while under the supervision of multiple healthcare providers. The camp is held at Glacier View Ranch in Ward, Colorado. 

Volunteers consist of respiratory therapy students and licensed respiratory therapists, nurses, doctors and other medical specialists. They teach children how to participate in fun, physical activities, while still managing their asthma. The camp is organized by the American Lung Association and receives donations so that the children’s camp tuition is minimal.  

This year we asked our respiratory therapy students about their experiences and how it inspired them.
Here are their Champ Camp 2016 stories, in their own words.

Roman Valles has fun at Champ Camp. Roman Valles has fun at Champ Camp.
Roman Jesse Valles
2016 Graduate 
My experience at Champ Camp was amazing. This is my second year, and I enjoyed every single second with the campers and volunteers—from 6 a.m. for medication delivery all the way till bed time. Champ Camp will always be in my heart and I will make sure I make it every single year. I learned so much at camp and from different campers about their asthma.

My main job was asthma education and medication delivery. The few days I was there with my group, we taught each and every one of the campers about asthma, from what it is and how to treat it, to what to do during an attack.

I enjoyed teaching all the kids about asthma education in a fun way where they would listen and enjoy playing games at the same time.

Respiratory therapy students pose in front of a lake. From left to right: Raphael McCreary, Shannon Graziano and Annie Smithey volunteer at Champ Camp.
Shannon Graziano
Future 2017 Graduate
What an amazing opportunity not only for myself, but for my daughter. As a respiratory therapy student, I was given the opportunity to participate as a volunteer for the week up at camp. My daughter, a fellow asthmatic, was a camper. This was our first year as participants at Champ Camp, and it exceeded both of our expectations by far! 

The attention to detail in regards to each child and their individual needs were carried out with the up-most priority. The activities provided were pretty fantastic, from hiking to canoeing, zip-lining to rock climbing; there was never a dull moment!

The interactive asthma education, which was incorporated into the schedule of daily activities, was creative, fun and it kept the campers very engaged. My daughter had the time of her life.  As a mother of an asthmatic child, it was wonderful to see her bond with new friends, participate in activities, go rock climbing and canoeing for the very first time! 

I am grateful to the American Lung Association for sponsoring such an amazing program.  It is so important to not only educate our youngsters about asthma, but to let them rise above it, thrive, be given opportunities to participate in activities that they otherwise wouldn’t have, and to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Respiratory therapy students volunteer at Champ Camp From left to right: Steph Bolan, Theresa Sabaka and Eric Dyerly volunteer at Champ Camp.
Steph Bolan
2016 Graduate
This was my second year attending Champ Camp as a Pima Medical student and I am so grateful for the amazing experience. I was up at camp for three days this year, although I wish I could have gone for longer. My main duties were delivering medication and teaching asthma education. I also headed the Pima Medical asthma education committee this year, where we planned the activities for a couple months in advance. It is so rewarding being able to help the kids learn more about managing their asthma, all while playing games and having fun. We spent about 12 hours each day working, although you could hardly call it work when it's that much fun!

I believe that my Pima Medical education taught me many very necessary skills that helped me at camp. It also made me feel comfortable and confident looking after the kids and helping to ensure their safety.

Spending time at camp has definitely also opened my eyes to the possibility of working in pediatrics. Now, as a recent graduate, I can definitely say that I look forward to many more years at camp as a respiratory therapist. I would absolutely recommend that other students take the time to get involved. I can honestly say that it is beyond worth it for both the kids as well as all of the volunteers!
Respiratory therapy students volunteer at Champ Camp Theresa Sabaka and Eric Dyerly work at Champ Camp.
Theresa Sabaka
2016 Graduate
This was my second year at Champ Camp. I look forward to helping these kids and educating them in the years to come. My role at Champ Camp was asthma education and medication delivery to the kids morning and night. My education at Pima Medical prepared me to teach these kids about how to manage their asthma, deliver their meds and ensure their safety. 

During asthma education, we teach the kids that they are able to have a normal life while having asthma and how to manage their asthma by taking medications as needed. They can play sports and live a happy, healthy life.  This experience is not only rewarding but also a life lesson on learning patience. As I now begin my career as a respiratory therapist, I look forward to being able to continue to educate the community on Champ Camp and giving back by volunteering.

Respiratory therapy students volunteer at Champ Camp. Annie Smithey and Raphael McCreary volunteer at Champ Camp.
Annie Smithey
Future 2017 Graduate 
My experience at Champ Camp was beyond exciting and beat my expectations! Pima Medical taught me so much while at school that I was able to apply my knowledge at Champ Camp. For example, I was taught how to deliver medication to my campers, which allowed me to treat my campers in the mornings and the evenings. That personal interaction with my campers allowed for a strong bond to form.
The most challenging moment was explaining to my campers why their medicines and asthma were important to learn about. One of my campers informed me that after camp she was going to have her peak flow and spacer with her in her purse so that she could check her peak flow each morning and night and record her highest values! That moment put everything in perspective for me and helped me come to the realization that I had an impact on a young child.

Jamie Orchowski works with kids during Champ Camp. Jamie Orchowski works with kids during Champ Camp.
Jamie Orchowski
2016 Graduate

This was my second year volunteering at Champ Camp. Last year I was a counselor and was able to help the kids manage their asthma during activities such as rock climbing, sports, swimming and hiking. As a counselor you are with the kids 24 hours a day for the week, which was a great experience because I saw how controlled or uncontrolled their asthma was.
This year I decided to volunteer with the RT’s on staff and help give morning and night medications and monitor (peak flow meter) how the kids were doing throughout the week. I stayed at the camp the entire week. I was not in the group that planned the asthma education classes, but I helped on the days they were scheduled. It was great seeing the kids learning about how to manage and control their asthma. I was also able to go on hikes, rock climbing and zip line trips with the kids to be there if any of them needed extra help.
My education at Pima Medical helped me understand the peak flow meters, medications, how to teach the kids, and how to calm them by using breathing techniques. For me it is an extra great experience because both of my children have asthma and are able to attend and learn with their friends. My time at Champ Camp was wonderful, and I plan to volunteer for many years to come. I hope to have a future in respiratory therapy working with children to help them continue to learn.

Raphael McCreary volunteers at Champ Camp. Raphael McCreary enjoys the nature at Champ Camp.
Raphael McCreary
Future 2017 Graduate

Champ Camp was a new experience for me since it was my first year. It was an extremely touching experience that would leave anyone who has participated changed forever.
For the next week I became completely involved in these kids’ lives. I was a senior camp counselor/respiratory therapy student. My job entailed being with a small group of campers around the clock. I would be there to wake them up and start the day, give them their asthma medications twice a day, take them and participate in the various activities (including asthma education everyday), lunch, back to dinner, night activities, and finally to bed. I was constantly helping kids administer their MDIs, DPIs, and peak flows multiple times a day. Also, every day during asthma education, I was able to apply greater emphasis on what asthma is, how it works, and how it’s perfectly manageable through various medications.
The things that I took away were witnessing campers overcoming their fear of challenges that they never thought they could and seeing the rush of new confidence afterwards. Being able to expose them to new things that most kids don’t get to see in the city such as the breathtaking views, different wildlife and seeing their reactions by just making them feel the center of attention were all things that made me feel that I made the right choice to become a part of Champ Camp. So much of daily life is spent at work, classrooms, on phones, or with very little human contact, and to be able to leave all that behind and immerse myself in the mountains, at camp, with 100 asthma kids was priceless. 

PMI program director and camp director give a presentation. Champ Camp director, Ashley Seader, gives a presentation during camp, while John Streit, left, listens on. Streit is Pima Medical Institute's online bachelor of science in Respiratory Therapy program director. He has volunteered as director of asthma education at Champ Camp for 11 years running.

Champ Camp 2016 in Colorado. Our respiratory therapy students look forward to going back to Champ Camp in 2017.

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