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Eye of the Tiger

Junior’s mentoring experience hits home

VIKTORIA BARR

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(COURTESY/ALEYNA CAMACHO)

Just three days old, Roseville High School junior Aleyna Camacho was rushed into open heart surgery due to congenital heart disease. Although burdened with a potentially life-threatening illness, this would lead to life lasting relationships and the ability to help people with similar obstacles.

As the years progressed and Camacho developed a steady resistance to her disease, she found solace in helping other children suffering with the same condition. Over spring break, Camacho was presented with the opportunity to mentor at a camp for children with congenital heart disease – Camp Taylor – where she herself would go as a kid, located in Oahu, Hawaii.

“I started going to camp when I was nine and became a mentor around two years ago,” Camacho said. “There’s a board of directors and when you go to camp who observe you and look for traits that show you could be a good mentor. Then they give you a call and ask if you want to be a mentor, and obviously I said yes.”

As a mentor, Camacho felt she was able to interact with Hawaiian children that are currently experiencing some of the same issues that she faced as a child. She was also there to guide not only the children, but also their concerned and questioning parents.

“Your responsibility is to kind of guide them, because some of these families have really small children and they have not experienced as much life as I have, and so they’re really just looking for answers,” Camacho said. “It’s nice to see someone who’s older, because when you’re young it can be scary between surgeries and hospital visits and stuff, it gives the parents a lot of hope to see what you’ve been through.”

For a week thousands of miles away in the warm climate of Hawaii, Camacho interacted with various kids and visited the beach and played games with them. While at the camp, she formed strong connections with children and was easily welcomed into their families and their friendly culture.

“By the end of the week the kids were resting their head on me,” Camacho said. “It was so sweet, they also introduced me to their family and it was just so cute.”

This camp was able to give Camacho a second home for the couple days, and along with that home came many little family members.

“It’s the best experience that you could ever have,” Camacho said. “It really makes you understand what you have and you feel so loved.”

(COURTESY/ALEYNA CAMACHO)

Camacho’s mom – Debra Camacho – wants to be a constant source of support for her daughter through all the hardships she may have with this heart defect.

“I want her to not have to use that heart defect as a crutch, I never want her to be insecure about her scar, and you know as a woman we can be self-conscious,” Debra said. “I try to raise her up and tell her that it’s her badge of courage.”

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