By CHARLENE PAUL
Moapa Valley Progress
The Children’s Heart Foundation, with the help of Sunshine Nevada, completed a very successful camp in Lovell Canyon during the last week of June. Camp Mend A Heart is a medically supervised experience for children ages seven to seventeen who have heart issues and are generally not able to attend other camps. Campers come from all over the state to attend.
Moapa Valley resident, Natalie Jacobsmeyer has been a part of Camp Mend-A-Heart for many years. She became involved when her own daughter, Jennifer, now an adult, attended the camp as a child and later as a teen.
“It all started with my own heart kid and what this camp did for her, both as a camper and as a leader,” Jacobsmeyer said. “For four days, we all gather on the mountain, and we are all one – a family. It is simply the best thing for everyone involved.”
This year, Moapa Valley sent 25 volunteers to help out at camp – the largest group of volunteers on the mountain.
“We had four lifeguards, four adult leaders, thirteen counselors, and four activity leaders,” explained Jacobsmeyer.
The group gathered at the I-15 Moapa Valley turnoff on Wednesday morning, June 27 to begin their journey. They all wore matching tie-dyed blue and gold shirts, made by the Pirate Shirt Company, to show their involvement as a team. Every vehicle was filled to capacity.
The team arrived at Torino Ranch in Lovell Canyon in the early afternoon and immediately began decorating the camp with various Disney themes.
The children arrived on Thursday by bus. Local volunteers Zach Anderson and Blakey Anderson served as bus chaperones accompanying the groups of campers on their journey.
“It was an extremely eye opening experience to see how great these kids were, and how camp helped them feel a part of something,” said Zach Anderson.
Included in the number of campers was young Maggie Whitmore of Logandale. Maggie had the privilege of having her older sister, Eden, as a camp counselor to look out after her.
““Being a counselor at Camp Mend-A-Heart was such a neat experience,” said Eden. “I got to go up with my little sister and be her counselor. It was so much fun, and all the little kids were so sweet. It humbled me so much!”
The campers were greeted by a grand entry tunnel to run through as they came into camp. There were smiles and hugs and lots of happiness.
That first day the campers got acquainted with their counselors. Bonds of love and friendship were formed with the children easily and almost immediately, according to the volunteers.
“The volunteers get the special opportunity to be submerged in an environment full of love and kindness,” said local volunteer Alyson Evans. “While up there, everyone becomes a family and makes special connections with the kids. I’ll be counting down the days until I get to go back to meet new people and reconnect with those special souls I met this summer.”
Throughout the rest of the camp, kids enjoyed a whole lineup of activities like swimming, canoeing, arts, crafting, archery, games and rock wall climbing.
They also spent time building special parade floats from PVC pipe and cardboard. These were proudly displayed in a Disney-style parade held on Friday night.
There were two live band performances during the camp, a bonfire, s’mores, and lots of song and dance performances. There was even a flash mob ‘This Is Me’ song.
Though the local volunteers were kept busy in service to the young campers, many felt that they had benefitted more from the experience than the youngsters did.
“I’ll never forget the days I got to spend with these awesome kids, getting to know them and loving them so easily,” said local volunteer Abby Rose. “They inspired me so much. I wish I could be half as brave as them.”
“It is impossible to be in a bad mood after being surrounded by such amazing kids,” said local adult volunteer Brian Burris. “They have real problems, yet you would never know. I find myself a new person after every camp.”
“Being around these courageous kids fills my bucket,” said Jacobsmeyer. “I look forward to this week every year. Camp Mom is the best job I have ever had!”