After receiving an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) in January of 2000, our founder, Sara Meslow, learned of a camp in California for children with heart disease and decided to join their ranks of volunteers. She saw the impact camp has on these young heart heroes and how being in community helps to heal these children holistically. Upon arriving back in Minnesota and doing a bit of research, she realized there wasn’t a camp in the Midwest area to support children living with heart disease. Sara recognized the importance of bringing the heart camp experience to the Midwest.
With the support of many people and organizations, we welcomed 53 campers from 6 different states to Residential Camp in our first summer of 2002. Since then our program growth has been tremendous and campers come from all over the country to join our Odayin family.
Since our first summer, I’ve had the privilege of watching campers form life-long friendships and courageously try something for the first time. I’ve witnessed unmatched compassion and acceptance in our heart family. I’ve celebrated milestones parents never thought possible and wept at the graves of our heart warriors. Thousands of people and businesses over the last 20 years have encouraged, contributed to, and believed in the impact we make. Together we are helping to shape lives filled with confidence, resilience, and courage.Sara Meslow, Executive Director
Before Camp Odayin started, we wanted a name that reflected the beauty and people of Minnesota. A “name that camp” contest was held and ODAYIN (Ojibwa word for heart) received the most votes.
We consulted with various indigenous people, groups, and organizations to ensure using the word ODAYIN was appropriate and respectful.
We acknowledge that our partner camps in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and office in Minnesota, are on the stolen and traditional lands of Indigenous Peoples who are the original stewards of these lands. With honor we acknowledge the use of this land and the Ojibwa language. May our hearts and actions be full of respect and gratitude for this land and its history.