From ages 5 to 18, with personalities and interest as varied as they come, our campers share two things in common: they have serious illnesses, and incredible spirits. They are the reason Flying Horse Farms exists, and the inspiration for everything we do.

KENNETH

When Ken Mangan’s parents dropped him off at camp for the first time last summer, he was nervous. “Seven days is too long,” he said to his mother, Trish.

His family refers to him as The Amazing Kenneth. And Ken is just that. He was born with a complex heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. The left side of his heart was underdeveloped and a wall was blocking blood from reaching the right side—a highly dangerous combination.

As a newborn, Ken immediately needed an atrial septostomy, an operation that has only a 5 percent survival rate. It was a surgery that, as Dr. Lourdes Prieto explained to the Mangan family, had never been performed successfully on a child in Ken’s condition at the Cleveland Clinic.

Three heart surgeries and 11 years later, Ken plays saxophone in his school jazz band and works hard enough to be a grade level ahead of where he would normally be. His most recent academic accomplishment was memorizing and reciting 196 digits of pi for a Pi Day competition at school. He also manages bullying from other children. His mom says, “At camp, all the kids are like Ken: brave and strong and amazing. He can feel normal with them.”

When he arrived at camp, Ken informed the staff of his dislike of storms and getting his head wet. It stormed several times that week, but with the help of Cleveland Clinic cardiologist and volunteer camp physician Dr. Jerry Boyle’s iPad to track the weather and a unique bond with a very special canine counselor named Sam, Ken was able to work through some of his fears.

One day, Ken even swam all the way to the deep end of the pool, marking a huge transformation and earning him the nickname Deep End Ken.

Ask Ken about his favorite camp foods and he’ll tell you, “Hot sauce and decaf coffee.” His favorite camp memory is fishing with counselors Brandon, Topher, and Collin. But what really struck a chord with Ken was the canine training program. “You could see his personality change with Ben (the canine trainer) and Sam (the dog),” says Ken’s mom. “Sam even visited Ken in his cabin one night when there was a storm. My child came home a new man. And he accomplished so much at camp.”

By the time his parents picked him up from camp, Ken had a totally new perspective about camp. “So, was seven days too long?” his dad asked. Ken’s reply: “It should be seven years.”