Camp Lionheart helps kids with heart conditions experience the great outdoors in Lebanon County

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LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. -- 24 children with heart conditions are spending their days taking on the great outdoors, making lifelong friends and camping in Lebanon County.

"The people here have become my friends," said Cayden Rhodes, a camper.

Rhodes is spending the week at Camp Kirchenwald with more than a dozen other kids, 5 days of bonding, learning, and the great outdoors. It's called Camp Lionheart.

"Ultimately, this is a camp specifically created for kids with heart defects so a lot of kids never get to go to camps or do the typical kind of stuff the healthier kids get to do in the summer. So we have 24-7 nurse and physician coverage during the week," said Tomeka Lacy, Director of Camp Lionheart.

Camp Lionheart was born from a tragic loss: Ellie Ayer, who lost her battle with heart disease. Ellie's family created the Ellie'sHeartFoundation which supports the camp.

"This is her legacy. This is how she grows because she can't grow physically but she can grow with these kids and these kids are always going to have this experience that means so much to them," said Jennifer Ayer, Ellie's mom and Co-Founder of the foundation.

"We do this to honor her and to keep her memory fresh in our minds," said Malcolm Ayer, Ellie's big brother.

Many of the children faced open heart surgery or have procedures to come. At Camp Lionheart, the kids say they have a safe place and most importantly? They get to be kids.

"You're able to get away from all the bullying and other stuff that goes on in your life, and you just have a week of peace and making friends that have the same problem as you," added Rhodes.

The costs for these kids to attend? Free. It's the second year of the camp, and the Ayers hope to see it continue for years, bringing a group of young fighters together.

Camp Lionheart also runs off donations. To help out, visit the website here.

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