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For Immediate Release

Kids With Heart Disease Trade Doctor Appointments for Pool Time at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC's Annual Heart Camp

More than 150 kids from around the country have traveled to western Pennsylvania this week to enjoy a unique summer camp where they can enjoy traditional activities like swimming and fishing, while at the same time sharing with each other the challenges of living with heart disease.

The Dr. Bill Neches Heart Camp for Kids, co-sponsored by Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the American Heart Association, will be held from Tuesday, June 10, through Saturday, June 14, at Camp Kon-O-Kwee in Fombell, Pa.

The camp, established by Children’s in 1991, is the first in the nation dedicated solely to children with heart disease. It is named in honor Children’s cardiologist William Neches, MD, who retired in 2005 after 33 years at Children’s Hospital.

“Heart camp has always stayed true to Dr. Neches’ vision as a place where children with heart disease could have a typical summer camp experience without being self-conscious about their medical conditions, scars and medications,” said camp co-director Linda Russo, MD, a cardiologist in Children’s Heart Center.

The campers, ages 8 to 16, take part in traditional activities such as paddle boating, fishing, swimming, softball, and challenging themselves with the infamous “Trail of Courage,” an obstacle course that helps children build self-confidence.

In addition to these activities, Heart Camp offers Ask the Doctor/ Nurse and Ask the Counselor sessions, a favorite among campers. During the Ask the Doctor/ Nurse sessions, campers are encouraged to ask the doctors and nurses about their heart conditions. This helps them understand that there are others like them so they do not feel so alone when facing this disease. Ask the Counselor sessions are held with the entire camp group, and everyone shares stories and concerns about their conditions. Campers often ask the counselors how they cope with daily life activities and also what they tell people about their heart conditions.

“Camp is a wonderful experience for our patients because it helps them realize that there are many other children facing the same types of medical challenges,” said camp co-director Susan Miller, MD, also a cardiologist in Children’s Heart Center. “And because our counselors and junior counselors are patients from Children’s Heart Center, the kids realize they too can become normally functioning adolescents and young adults.”

Heart Camp is a program of the Heart Center at Children’s. The Heart Center cares for infants, children and young adults with all types of heart disease and for adults with congenital heart disease, including many who have undergone heart transplants. 

Learn more about Heart Camp.
Learn more about the Heart Center.
Learn more about Camp Kon-O-Kwee.


Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-692-5016,
Melanie Finnigan, 412-692-5502 or 412-692-5016,

Last Update
October 4, 2012
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Last Update
October 4, 2012