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Summer Camp Campaign: asthma sufferer gets new perspective

Kailyn LaSalle no longer fights her mother over taking her medications, thanks to Camp NoMoWheezin.

August 17, 2011|By Sophia Lee, Los Angeles Times

The daily battle ceased at the LaSalle household in Moreno Valley when Kailyn came back from her first camp last summer.

Called Camp NoMoWheezin and operated by the California chapter of the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, the facility is for children ages 8 to 14 with asthma. When Kailyn first visited, she was 11 and had been struggling with chronic asthma her whole life, as well as with allergies to things such as dust, horses, pollen and grass.

The constant stress of Kailyn's condition took a toll. Kailyn was not allowed to do many of the activities her friends could, such as running, having sleepovers or playing outside during springtime. A big chunk of her childhood was spent in emergency rooms and hospital wards; Kailyn's mother, Tiffany LaSalle, said that the frequent hospital trips caused her to lose more than one job.

But the biggest headache was the battle that took place every day: Kailyn would refuse to take her medications. Because neither her 8-year-old sister, Cheyenne, nor her school friends had asthma, Kailyn resented the special procedures and restrictions.

"I used to fight with her to take her medicine. I had to beg her," Tiffany said. "She had to take five to six medications per day, and she just got tired of it.... She couldn't understand why she was different from other kids."

LaSalle finally decided that Kailyn needed a support group and discovered Camp NoMoWheezin. One week of hiking, archery and campfire s'mores in the San Bernardino National Forest later, Kailyn came back transformed.

"She was a totally different kid when she came back," LaSalle said. "I didn't have to explain to her again why she can't do some things another kid can. I didn't have to tell her why she had to take her medicine."

Kailyn said that with the help of camp counselors and doctors and the support of fellow campers with similar conditions, she learned to accept the responsibility of taking care of her own health.

"I still really don't like medicine, but I just take it because I understand that it's necessary for my body," Kailyn said.

Inspired by the doctors at camp and the hospital, she not only takes care of herself now but also dreams of taking care of others as a pediatrician — because she likes "how they have happy faces" and look like "they have a nice time with their jobs."

Through the generosity of Times readers, along with a match by the McCormick Foundation, more than $1.6 million was granted last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.

The Summer Camp Campaign, part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund, supports programs that provide thousands of Southern California's at-risk children ages 7 to 17 with enriching, educational and fun camp experiences.

Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law and matched at 50 cents on the dollar. Donor information is not traded or published without permission. Donate online at latimes.com/donate or by calling (800) 518-3975. All gifts will receive a written acknowledgment.

calendar@latimes.com

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