The Jeff Gordon Children's Hospital at CMC-NorthEast in Concord is home to two summer camps supported by the Speedway Children's Charities. During the last ten years, hundreds of children have been able to attend Camp Open Airways and Camp Sweet Freedom on scholarships provided by the Speedway Children's Charities.

Established in 1997 with a grant from the Speedway Children's Charities, Camp Open Airways and now, since 2006, Camp Sweet Freedom provide opportunities for asthmatic and diabetic children to attend summer day camps under the supervision of medical staff. Children are recommended to the camps by their physician or school nurse where they learn how to control their asthma and diabetes while participating in typical camp activities.

Camp Open Airways is a chance for children with asthma to have fun, meet new friends and learn to recognize the warning signs and triggers. There are lots of fun activities for the campers - swimming, dancing and dunking booths. Each day of camp has a special theme and a specific topic for the children to learn.

The first day was a pirate theme where the children learned about the triggers for asthma. The campers had to find their triggers in a treasure hunt. One day they had a NASCAR theme. The children played in Jeff Gordon's race car along with some of the members of his pit crew.  At the completion of the 4-day camp they children were given goody bags with information and samples. "The children really do learn how to take better care for themselves and recognize the warning signs of asthma, said Wanda Black,
Pediatric Respiratory Therapy Supervisor. "We had two campers who had at least one visit every month to the ER. Since Camp Open Airways they have not had to come to the ER."

Camp Sweet Freedom is a three day camp for children dealing with the issues of diabetes. This camp pairs diabetic children with healthy children in order to teach them both. The campers already know how to test their blood sugar, and they all test their blood sugar together.  This provides an opportunity for the healthy child to understand how and why their friend checks his blood sugar. The campers learn about
nutrition and the importance of knowing the amount of carbohydrates, protein, etc. they are eating. At each snack and meal during camp the kids talk about the nutritional value of their food. The rest of camp is spent swimming and playing.

"The kids have to deal with diabetes and manage it, said Dr. Thea Pfeifer, Pediatric Endocrinologist. "But day to day they are normal kids. We try to make camp as much fun as possible while incorporating the educational aspects." This camp experience strengthens the diabetes child's knowledge of his needs, and his friend begins to understand what his diabetic friend must do daily to take care
of himself. It is a learning experience for both of them, and the friend becomes part of the support system for the diabetic child.

For information about either camp, call CMC-NorthEast's Ask First at (704) 403-1275