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Pete’s Perspective: Asthma Camp – Learning to Shape the Future

Pete’s Perspective: Asthma Camp – Learning to Shape the Future

One of the welcome traditions of summer at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS) is The Mark Velcoff, MD Asthma Camp. Each year, we look forward to the smiling faces of our young friends who attend. Asthma Camp inspires confidence in children. They learn about living with asthma in a setting with other kids doing the same. Instead of being different, they are a group, discovering together how to enjoy the same activities as kids without asthma.

It’s truly amazing to see how our campers grow in such a short time. They make new friends and have fun. That’s what summer camp is all about. They’re also taught how to manage their asthma – and that can be life changing.

Asthma is the most common chronic condition among children under 18 and the third leading cause of hospitalization among children. Over the past year, nearly 500 children came to our Emergency Department with asthma. While there is no cure, knowledge helps remove fear. Less fear means kids can spend more time being kids.

Our Asthma Camp opens all kinds of opportunities for the youngsters and builds independence. From swimming, hiking, and interactive experiences, our specially trained team teaches campers how to participate safely in physical activities. It boosts their confidence to stretch their skills further in the playground and in the classroom.

The camp is staffed entirely by volunteers including physicians and clinical professionals from SVMHS. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the SVMH Foundation, Asthma Camp is open to all children, regardless of ability to pay. It’s something we feel strongly about. Studies have shown asthma camps provide a range of significant benefits. SVMHS is honored to share these benefits with our community. We see it as a great investment in the future.

Asthma Camp was founded 36 years ago by SVMHS physician Mark Velcoff, MD and respiratory therapist Jill Houlette to improve opportunities for children with asthma. The Camp is now named for Dr. Velcoff who passed away in 2006. His medical practice and Asthma Camp partner, Steven Prager, MD has carried on the tradition and serves as the volunteer Medical Director of Asthma Camp today. Every year since 1986 (with a year off due to COVID), Asthma Camp has continued to change lives.

We are proud of this legacy and we are proud of every single class of our Asthma Camp graduates. By learning at a young age how to take an active role in their own healthcare, they are also discovering how to shape their future. That’s a lesson that money can’t buy.

Be safe and be well.

– Pete

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