Krystian's Kolumn: I'm looking forward to Camp Mountain Heart...bugs and all!

By Local News | July 22, 2017 via
This year, summer travel opportunities provided me with a special visit to Texas.  I was also fortunate to visit my birth state of New Mexico, allowing me to reconnect with my family and exploring all the natural wonders both states have to offer.
But this week I will be traveling my state of West Virginia to visit a special camp that is near and dear to my ‘heart’, Camp Mountain Heart. I’m not a fan of camping even though I remember thinking that it would an amazing experience and super fun as a child. Only to come to a realization that it is kind of messy and there are a lot of bugs. Don’t get me wrong, I love being outdoors, I just prefer to have a warm/cool bed at night and a nice shower after a day of exploring.
So when I was invited to Camp Mountain Heart for Shining Scars last year, I was a little apprehensive about being prepared. I asked all sorts of questions and then quickly realized it was camping in actual cabins with running water, electric, etc.
If you haven’t heard of Camp Mountain Heart, you can find them at It is an inspirational camp designed to give children and teens with congenital heart defects a time to be normal and find a tribe of their own, scars included.

Last year the camp donated copies of my children’s book, and I shared a talk with the campers hoping to inspire them to rise above the stigma of their own scars. These teens are true warriors, battling chronic illness and countless surgeries.
The camp is filled with fun and even takes time to nurture the brokenness and fears that their campers face. Mortality is part of the discussion and understanding how life threatening their illness can be.  But most importantly is the fun that they have and trips the camp provides to their campers free of charge.
Dr. Larry Rhodes, a Pediatric Cardiologist at WVU Children’s Hospital has been a counselor since 1996, and is joined at the camp by experienced counselors, physicians, and nurses who provide the best care and supervision giving parents peace of mind, and the campers all the attention they could ask for. I was welcomed into the fold last year, and joined in the games with my usual competitive spirit! So many laughs were had that I couldn’t wait to sign up for this year’s camp as a volunteer counselor.

I’m unpacking now, and have my special anti-bug repellent ready, and an open heart that is humbled to be among these scarred warriors, princesses and heroes. I am sure I will see some familiar faces and new ones that I will call friend before I leave this beautiful camp.

“We are all a little broken. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same.” – Unknown
Keep shining bright and thank you for following my journey to make our world a little brighter.

Krystian Leonard is the President of Shining and an accomplished author.  She is a graduate of Robert C. Byrd High School and West Virginia Univeristy.  She is also a Channel Kindness Reporter.  You can find out more about Krystian by going to her website at

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