Our Lego themed fall Family Camps were remarkable and everywhere I looked, people were building. Building relationships, building hope and building memories. We continue to build back after the pandemic, and we are able to do this because of the solid foundation on which Odayin was created. Volunteers, board members, believers, donors, cheerleaders, parents, campers, staff, have all made many significant contributions over the years to build our future. Our strong foundation remains and that solid footing has proven critical through the necessary adaptations in recent years.
2022 welcomed the return of in-person, overnight camps. Busses were booked, sleeping bags were packed, camp t-shirts were worn, friendships were formed and joy was all around. Online programming continued for our virtual campers whose connections on the computer last throughout the year.
At Odayin, our campers find their people. Parents and care givers find support. Super siblings are celebrated. Every interaction builds our community – a space of belonging and acceptance.
“Our full potential and creativity can only be unleashed when we feel like we belong” – Jennifer Brown, Wall Street Journal best selling author of How to be an Inclusive Leader (great book!)
Thank you for your contributions to support the Odayin community. Together we are strong, and our future us bright. Let’s keep building!
Sara Meslow, Executive Director
P.S. Oh, and did you know the plural of Lego is Lego? Not Legos. Please reach out if you’d like to meet for coffee to talk all things Odayin, or share more grammatical fun.
Our supportive programs were attended by 519 people in 2022. In addition to our in-person and virtual camps, we offered some creative opportunities for connection and learning. We hosted a Hero Hangout & Family Flick and welcomed 55 heart heroes and family members, many of whom had never experienced Camp Odayin. The alumni camper network, Mortimer’s Mates continued to grow and hosted a variety of gatherings and their first fundraiser. In total, 238 heart heroes and 281 family members benefitted from one or more Camp Odayin experience. We’re so thankful for the 528 volunteers who donated 6,545 hours to make these connections possible!
parents at Dads Day and two Moms Retreats
campers at Residential Camp
heart heroes tuned into our virtual Ticker Talks and Hearts@Home
heart heroes and family members at Family Camp
- Moms Retreat is a time for moms of heart heroes to connect for support, education and empowerment in Stillwater, MN and Lake Geneva, WI.
- Dads Day is a day of outdoor recreation in Excelsior, MN to build camaraderie and connection between dads of young people with heart disease.
- Hearts@Home virtual camp is for campers in grades 1-11. All campers receive a mailed “camp in a box” which includes a camp t-shirt and activity supplies.
- Residential Camp offers campers in grades 1-11 an opportunity to enjoy traditional camp activities in a medically supervised environment during a five-day overnight experience in Crosslake, MN and Elkhorn, WI.
- Family Camp is an opportunity for families of a child with heart disease age birth to 12th grade to come together for fun, education, and connection.
- Ticker Talk is a free, mini-camp experience hosted virtually throughout the school year for online campers in grades 1-12.
- Mortimer’s Mates is a group for former Odayin campers to join after graduating from high school to enjoy continued connection, alumni events, speakers, and more.
- Winter Camp offers campers in grades 1-12 the chance to reconnect for frigid fun in February. Winter Camp was not hosted in 2022.
Total Income – $1,068,311
Total Expense – $1,226,874
As of December 31, 2022
|Cash – non-interest-bearing||206,087|
|Savings and temporary cash investments||228,679|
|Pledges receivable – current, net||90,811|
|Inventories for sale or use||2,596|
|Land, buildings, and equipment||164,501|
|Fixed assets, net||9,501|
|Right-of-Use assets – operating leases||20,135|
|Pledges receivable – noncurrent, net||110,255|
|Investments – publicly traded securities||854,035|
|Accounts payable and accrued expenses||19,330|
|With donor restrictions||244,819|
|Without donor restrictions||1,254,284|
|TOTAL LIABLITIES AND EQUITY||1,558,568|
2022 saw the return to largely normal operations and fundraising. We thank the all the foundations, companies, organizations, and individuals who continue to invest in our mission and have remained committed during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are so grateful, and the support is critical – our program expenses reached pre-pandemic amounts, with the return to in-person camps and retreats. We also navigated new challenges that emerged – a down stock market, inflation, and changing charitable giving trends – to end the year in a very good financial position. We are ready to continue building our programs for years to come!
Allocation of Program Expenses
- MN Residential Camp ($319,987) – 34%
- WI Residential Camp ($257,187) – 28%
- Family Camp ($130,997) – 14%
- Parent Retreats ($89,828) – 10%
- Ticker Talk ($43,979) – 5%
- Hero Hangout ($37,825) – 4%
- Hearts@Home Virtual Camp ($27,585) – 3%
- Other ($16,961) – 2%
Elena Westbrook is a former camper, five-year volunteer counselor, and Camp Odayin enthusiast. She is a proud third generation Chicagoan who currently works at a small marketing agency in Chicago’s west loop. When she’s not at Camp Odayin, she’s trying new recipes, diving into Chicago history, and catching up with camp pals old and new.
Elena shared a bit of her story with guests at our first annual Big Heart Bash in Chicago on October 13, 2022:
Through sharing my story, I hope that I can, in the next few minutes, impress upon you the magnitude of the difference you’re making. As was mentioned earlier, I am a former camper and current heart patient. I genuinely cannot count how many cardiac procedures I’ve had, and I have no memory of a life without heart disease since my condition was discovered when I was 2 months old. What I do remember, what it all felt like before I went to camp.
While I was growing up with serious cardiac illness, well-meaning adults tended to treat me like I was made of glass. I grew accustomed to being sequestered, separated, having to constantly explain to both peers and adults why I couldn’t fully participate in certain everyday activities because of the fatigue those activities would induce, eat certain foods because of their conflicts with my medications, or even walk through a metal detector because I had a pacemaker.
It was kind of stressful lifestyle for a 12 year old. I glowered enviously at those big-name with diseases with well-publicized 5Ks and people wearing pink for a whole month, and trendy rubber bracelets. On the occasions people did mention ‘heart disease’, it was all old people and something about cholesterol, which meant they obviously weren’t talking about me. Nobody knew anything about kids like me. My diagnosis was cardiomyopathy. My disease was loneliness.
Then, in 2005 during one of my many cardiology appointments, I picked up a brochure sitting on one of the side tables in the waiting room. It described a summer camp, a real sleepaway summer camp, for kids with heart disease, in some suburb called Minnesota. But I was overjoyed, because prior to that moment, camp had just been another thing on the long list of stuff I could never do. After much pleading and very diligent research, my parents agreed, piled the family into our SUV, drove six and a half hours, and nervously hand-delivered me to Sara Meslow and her phenomenal staff.
The rest, as they say, is history. At camp, for the first time in my life, I met a lot of other kids who were just like me.. I met other kids who had also had countless surgeries and proudly sported the telltale “zipper” scar on their torso. I met older teens, and counselors who served as role models who truly “got me” in a way few others did. I tried new things that my thoroughly urban environment simply couldn’t have introduced me to – horseback riding, tubing, kayaking, and roasting marshmallows over a bonfire (we usually just used the microwave at home).
For five glorious days, I was introduced to myself, and to who I might be outside of hospital rooms and surgeries and anxiety. For five days the most salient detail about me to most adults, that is to say my heart problem, just didn’t matter. I also gained really important perspective on my life and the severity of my condition, as I met many other kids multiple diagnoses of equal severity to my own.
When I returned, my parents were floored. I overheard my mom telling her sisters how much more confident I seemed, no small feat for a middle school girl. They happily sent me again and again and again, and soon my friends became theirs too. When I “graduated” from camp, the support didn’t stop there, as the young adult retreat reconnected many old camp friends and provided valuable information about how we might best manage our transitions into the world of adult cardiac care.
I went for fun and I gained a family, a community, and the sense of identity that so many chronically ill people are robbed due to circumstance. My parents could connect with others who could truly understand their worries and hopes for their child. I met one of my lifelong best friends at camp that very first year.
I simply do not know who I would be if I hadn’t had that chance at 12 years old. Each year at camp I could see bright, technicolor flashes of the adult I might become. Historic civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman said “You cannot be what you cannot see”, and through camp I could finally see so much. So thank you for your support of a place that allows heart warriors, families, and friends to see and be seen. Even now, on the other side as a counselor, I still feel that deep sense of connection, wonder, and joy from our community and the many people connected to and through it. I am beyond excited that even more kids from my neck of the woods will have this opportunity.
Camp Odayin provides fun, safe and supportive camp experiences and community building opportunities for young people with heart disease and their families.
Sara Meslow, Executive Director
Alison Boerner, Assistant Director
Matt Olson, Finance Director
Kris Lukkarila, Director of Operations
Brooke Hohag, Program Director
Aidan Di Giacomo, Marketing and Program Director
Maura Flynn Galganski, RN – Herma Heart Institute, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Micaela Griffin – State of Minnesota Department of Commerce / former camper
Vicky Hidalgo – U.S. Bank
Tom Hipkins – Fredrikson & Byron
Fred Hoiberg – University of Nebraska (Honorary Board Member)
Dr. Jonathan Johnson – Mayo Clinic
Dr. Brian Joy – University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital
John Mack – Medtronic
Sara Meslow – Camp Odayin
Leah Saarela, Treasurer – Medtronic / Parent of a camper
Dr. Andy Schneider – The Children’s Heart Clinic
Erik Schuck, Vice Chair – Dem-Con Companies / Parent of a camper
Michael Stuart – First Midwest Bank / Parent of a camper
Dr. Shweta Stuart – NorthShore University Health System / Parent of a camper
Tom Williams, Chair – Boston Scientific