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He was on his way to sleep-away camp but was sent home upon arrival, says Janice Bailey, VP of St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) Foundation, of the boy who inspired one of the area’s most heartwarming summer camps. Bailey explains the youngster was sent home, gear in hand, because the facility was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the boy's heart medication. This devastating rejection was crushing not only to the child, but also to his nurses, who felt inclined to create a solution for children in similar situations. These days, that solution is simply known as SLCH’s Camp Rhythm.

Created to offer a fun and safe environment, Camp Rhythm provides area children stricken with heart conditions a summer camp experience, free of charge. In 2012, the day camp, which lasts three days and is for children ages 5 through 7, had 19 kids in attendance, while the five-day overnight camp housed 73. The camp is staffed entirely by volunteers, including many nurses and physicians who take vacation time to do so, Bailey says. “It’s just a camp—but it just happens to be a safe camp,” Bailey says. “The parents love it because they know that their kids are going to be taken care of by medical professionals.” Full of activities like swimming, fishing, archery and crafts, Camp Rhythm is focused on letting these children be kids—not patients. “When they go swimming, they all have scars on their chests and they’re all the same. The staffers do a great job of helping these kids have self-confidence.”

Leave it to renowned SLCH to provide such an experience to deserving children. “We treat the whole family, not just the child,” Bailey says. “We really pride ourselves in being family-focused.” Founded by eight women who realized ill children should be treated like the youngsters they are, SLCH is the oldest children’s hospital west of the Mississippi River, Bailey explains, and the eighth-oldest nationwide. “We do the gamut of all pediatric care,” she says. “We definitely are a leader in pediatric health care, not only in St. Louis but around the country.” The focus on patients hasn’t changed since the start, she says, and every employee—from the public safety officers to the nurses to the housekeepers—exemplifies it. “When you have that kind of atmosphere where the patient comes first, you know what your priorities are.”

This dedication not only is engrained in the hospital’s employees—it also is part of the local community of volunteers. “I began volunteering my time since the moment my children were little,” says Ann Perry, who has been involved with Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital for 12 years. “It’s nice to know we have such a high-caliber children’s hospital in our city, because you never know if or when you’ll need it.”

Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital hosts the annual Table Tops event to benefit the Endowment Fund for Camp Rhythm. Created to inspire unique entertaining options, this luncheon features various tables ornately decorated by area designers and is celebrating its 10th year. “It began as simple entertaining, and it has evolved to become almost magical,” says Perry, who is co-chairing the event along with Pam Trapp. “Designers just go all-out. Some tablescapes are very high, some are sleek and low.” Event guests can peruse not only the fabulous tables but the vendor boutiques. All leave with a party favor, which varies from decorated table to table.

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The Friends of St. Louis Children's Hospital present Table Tops on Thursday, April 18, at The Ritz-Carlton. The event begins at 10 a.m., with lunch served at noon. For tickets (general reservation, $75; patron reservation, $150), call 286-0970 or visit

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