BTN LiveBIG: Golden Gophers team up with heart patients for a day to remember

BTN LiveBIG: Golden Gophers team up with heart patients for a day to remember

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The kids who go to Camp Odayin in Stillwater, Minn., all have one thing in common: They all suffer from some kind of heart disease or defect. In fact, that’s why the camp was founded — to give kids with heart issues the carefree summer experience they may not get otherwise.

But while they might not have a great deal of heart in the strictest physical sense, these children possess it in spades when it comes to facing challenges with courage and a positive outlook.

Student-athletes from the University of Minnesota — who know a thing or two about heart — see this firsthand every year when they travel about three hours’ distance from the Twin Cities to spend a full day at the camp.

“Being with these kids for a full day has been really impactful,” said Milica McMillen, a senior on Minnesota’s women’s hockey team. “They still have these positive attitudes and smiles on their face, [and] it’s really inspiring and impactful as a student-athlete.”

The Golden Gophers’ visit is one of the highlights of the summer for the campers, who spend time socializing with the athletes, playing with them on the waterfront and learning about healthy habits. But the Minnesota students also leave Camp Odayin with a lesson on heart that they likely couldn’t get in a classroom or practice facility.

“I’ve learned a lot in about eight hours that I probably wouldn’t have learned just being at school and training,” McMillen said. “At the end of this day, I’ve been opened up to a whole new world.

“I will take this three-hour bus ride any day,” she added.

By Grant Rindner

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