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Cranberry-based nonprofit sponsors annual camp for children with asthma

| Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 1:12 p.m.
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Camper Sydney Gray takes part in an educational session.
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Camper Joshua McNulty participates in team building activies on the ropes course last year.
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The camp is expecting another good turnout this year.

For 30 years, Camp Huff-n-Puff has provided a safe place for children with asthma to learn and play.

This year the summer camp is putting more emphasis on play and activities and less on classroom time to allow children to challenge themselves and learn to properly manage their asthma through recreation.

“Let's hit the education hard, reinforce it through the weekend and really let them explore what their limits are,” said camp director and respiratory therapist Marianne Drevna.

The camp will be held Aug. 7-10 at Jumonville Camp and Conference Center near Uniontown. Huff-n-Puff is organized by Breathe Pennsylvania, a nonprofit based in Cranberry that helps residents of southwestern Pennsylvania achieve and maintain optimal lung health through education, prevention, awareness and direct services.

Children ages 8 to 13 from across the region with mild to severe asthma may attend the summer camp, which promises to let kids do all the things kids should do at camp without the fear of judgment or having a medical emergency, said Dr. Mark Mamros, one of the camp's physicians.

“The idea of behind camp is to show that kids can do things to the fullest extent,” Mamros said.

The cost to attend is $125, and scholarships are available to those in need, Drevna said.

In past years, there has been a series of educational sessions throughout the camp's four-day run on asthma and topics surrounding the condition.

However, this year the multiple sessions have been streamlined into one 90-minute class for campers on the first day.

It will cover a variety of topics, including asthma control, prevention, triggers and the effects of exercise and diet on asthma, Drevna said. Also new this year is a parent education session that will take place on the first day to reinforce all the material given to the kids.

After that, they'll move on to activities like archery, swimming, team challenges and hiking.

“It's a place of yes, a place of fun and a place of ‘let's challenge and push ourselves. But you have the medical support, and it's designed so that it's a safe and healthy place to be,” said Dr. Ashley Kilp, a member of the camp's medical staff

There will be six respiratory therapists, three registered nurses, five physicians, an emergency medical technician and a handful of other volunteers on hand during the camp's four days to ensure that everyone is well taken care of, Drevna said.

Many of the staff members also have asthma, so they understand what it's like to be in the campers' shoes, Drevna said.

Kilp, former camper and counselor, said summer camp can be an essential experience for any kid, but Huff–n-Puff fits well for someone who has to carry around an inhaler or take regular treatments for their asthma.

“For me, it was having a community that socially understood things. I didn't have to be the weird one with the inhaler or the one sitting out at gym class,” Kilp said. “You don't have to explain things, you don't have to hide things, people just get it.”

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 .

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