Running around in P.E. class was a difficult task for Emily Pearson. So was sleeping, which usually meant waking up in the middle of the night coughing and needing to use her inhaler.
At 5 years old, Emily had experienced three asthma attacks – the tightening of muscles around the airways.
"It's scary because I can't breathe. It does irritate me really bad. My chest gets really tight, and I wheeze really bad," said the 15-year-old.
Each time she had an attack, she was hospitalized for a week. During her last hospitalization, her mother, Helen Cloud, 59, of Sacramento, saw a flier in the doctor's office about a summer camp for kids with asthma. She signed up her daughter.
Kid's Play Camp became an important part of Emily's life during the summer.
Since 2001, California FairPlay, a nonprofit organization, has hosted the free summer camp designed for children ages 6-12 with mild to severe asthma. This year's camp will be Aug. 1-4 at Camp Arroyo in Livermore. Deadline for registration is Friday, with spots filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Kid's Play Camp engages kids in activities that they might otherwise be afraid to participate in or be restricted from doing because of asthma.
That's possible because of frequent testing and higher staffing levels of medical personnel and counselors, who teach the campers the importance of taking their medication in the right amounts and at the right time.
"Your airways contract, and it's like breathing through a straw," said California Fair Play President and CEO Al Brown. "The medication they take allows the airways to relax and operate normally."
Tyia Colsescu, 14, of Elk Grove is a camp veteran.
"I have mild asthma, but I didn't know things that caused it or how to prevent it or what to do when I or a friend had an asthma attack," she said. "I learned all about those things (at camp)."
Tyia has attended the camp since she was 5. Now she is a junior counselor at the camp, helping monitor the well-being of the children.
There are more than 115,000 adults and children with asthma in Sacramento County, according to data in a report by the American Lung Association in California titled "State of the Air 2013."
The report also stated that the Sacramento metropolitan area ranks No. 6 among the most ozone-polluted cities in the U.S.
"People who have asthma are particularly, seriously affected by ozone pollution," said Bonnie Holmes-Gen, senior director of policy and advocacy at the American Lung Association in California. "Ozone is an irritating gas and causes burns on lung tissue."
Emily's asthma didn't hold her back when she last attended Kid's Play Camp.
"I loved going swimming," she said. "We went horseback riding. We had a dance.
"We had great food. We had our own cabins. We went rock climbing, and we did this little run thing," Emily said, adding that she enjoyed seeing her camp friends year after year.
Applications are still being accepted.
KID'S PLAY CAMP
What: Free four-day camp for children 6-12 with asthma. Campers can bring a friend who doesn't have asthma, and parents can stay at the camp. Spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, with preference to kids with asthma.
Where: Camp Arroyo, Livermore
When: Aug. 1-4; registration deadline is Friday
Information: (916) 491-1609 or (916) 802-0466 or cafairplay.org
Note: California FairPlay, the nonprofit that operates the camp, is selling fireworks at the intersection of Power Inn and Elder Creek roads through July 4.
Call The Bee's Kristopher Rivera, (916) 321-1101 Follow him on Twitter @kgrivera.