2022 Annual Impact Report

Building Back - Letter from Executive Director, Sara Meslow

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. 

99% of campers feel accepted when they are at Camp Odayin
99% of campers make new friends when they are at Camp Odayin
100% of campers feel supported and encouraged by staff at Camp Odayin

“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. 

Parent and camper building with Lego at Family Camp
Smiling camper building with Lego at Family Camp
Family Camp volunteers dressed in yellow Lego Minifigure shirts.
Parent holding up a Lego creation at Family Camp
2022 Camp Programs

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

participants at the Moms Retreat posing after axe throwing in Stillwater, MN


campers at Residential Camp

An Odayin camper braving the high ropes course at Wisconsin Residential Camp


heart heroes tuned into our virtual Ticker Talks and Hearts@Home

A virtual camper in Florida receiving his mailed Hearts@Home camp-in-a-box.


heart heroes and family members at Family Camp

Mother and son in Lego glasses 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.
"We came to this camp for the first time this year. Both our heart warrior and our super sibling were starting to feel the differences in our lives. Seeing the hardships. And feeling alone in their struggles. They both left Camp Odayin Family Camp with their souls full of happiness.  Here, they were just like everyone else. Nothing was too strenuous to participate in, no one stood out, and they enjoyed both being as a family (not too scary) and stretching their independence a little by meeting new friends. It’s a five hour drive for us but well worth it for the peace and acceptance it brought." 
 - Shannon, parent of a camper
Geographic Reach
US Map with hearts indicating 13 states where 2022 campers live
Campers in 2022 represented 13 US states
Campers and staff lined up on horseback at Residential Camp in Wisconsin
Campers venturing through blue colored powder at Residential Camp
Campers and staff in a paddleboat on the lake at Residential Camp in MN
2022 Financials

Total Income – $1,068,311

Grants 34%
Fundraisers 20%
Individual Donations 20%
In-Kind Donations 16%
Outside Events 5%
Corporate Donations 4%
Camp Registration Fees 1%

Total Expense – $1,226,874

Pie Chart:
Management and General - 11%
Fundraising - 14%
Program - 75%
Balance Sheet

As of December 31, 2022

Cash – non-interest-bearing206,087
Savings and temporary cash investments228,679
Pledges receivable – current, net90,811
Inventories for sale or use2,596
Prepaid expenses36,469
Land, buildings, and equipment164,501
Accumulated depreciation(155,000)
Fixed assets, net9,501
Right-of-Use assets – operating leases20,135
Pledges receivable – noncurrent, net110,255
Investments – publicly traded securities854,035
Deferred revenue20,000
Accounts payable and accrued expenses19,330
Operating leases20,135
With donor restrictions244,819
Without donor restrictions1,254,284

Financial Overview

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%
"My 8 year old son has grown in independence, has an amazing life experience, and learned how it felt to be truly accepted at Camp Odayin. This organization goes ABOVE and BEYOND to create a culture of safety, adventure, diversity, fun, and kindness. They are life changing for kids with congenital heart defects." 
 - Sue, parent of a camper
Photo grid of campers wearing sunglasses at Residential Camp in Wisconsin
Photo grid of campers wearing sunglasses at Residential Camp in Wisconsin
Photo grid of campers wearing sunglasses at Residential Camp in Wisconsin
Extraordinary Elena
Elena and Sara at the Big Heart Bash

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.

Elena at Camp Odayin as a camper in 2005
Elena as a counselor with two campers at Residential Camp in 2022

Camp Odayin provides fun, safe and supportive camp experiences and community building opportunities for young people with heart disease and their families.

Kids Play.
Worries Rest.
Fun Happens.

Camper at Residential Camp with colored chalk smudged on their face

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

Board of Directors

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

"I get to feel normal at camp and meet new people who are like me. I realize I’m not alone."
 - Residential Camp camper
87% of campers think more positively about their heart condition after attending Camp Odayin
"When I’m at camp, I feel like I’ve found 'my people'."
- Residential Camp camper

Stay up-to-date with Camp Odayin!

Camp Odayin: For Children with Heart Disease

We provide fun, safe and supportive camp experiences and community building opportunities for young people with heart disease and their families. 

We welcome people of any race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

Great Nonprofits: Top-Rated Nonprofit
Seal of Transparency Platinum from GuideStar
Charities Review Council Meets Standards

Contact Us

Office Address

  • 3503 High Point Drive North
  • Suite 250
  • Oakdale, MN 55128