One week every summer since 2004 (minus 2 years off to play nurse for my hubby and to deal with life) I have been a camp counselor at Camp Can Do which takes place at Gretna Glen outside of Mt. Gretna, PA.
Camp Can Do is a pediatric oncology camp. This means that all of our campers, who range from age 8 up through age 17, are either currently in treatment for various types of cancer or they are within 5 years of treatment. When I think about happy places, camp is one of the best. Being part of camp is like being part of a bubble where everybody loves and cares for each other. Camp is so not about the cancer - it's all about the kids just being kids. We swim, fish, hike, do arts and crafts, have campfires, eat S'mores, and scream about the daddy long leggers in the showers. We go boating and fishing, we push and support each other during Adventure Challenges, we learn new things (like how to play the guitar or dance), and cheer each other on as we try things we've never tried before. There are picnics, a dance, and a talent show. Honestly, picture a typical camp in your head, and that's really what we are. You'd think that our campers would be angry, would expect special treatment, and would say, "Why me????" after all they've been through, but that couldn't be further from the truth. These kids fill up my bucket every year with their amazing zest for life, their desire to give back, and their love and support for each other. I never truly appreciated life until these kids taught me how. And to see the kindness and support they have for each other; well, it's something you need to experience because words won't do it justice.
This year was the 31st year kids had the chance to go to camp, and hundreds of kids have benefitted from the love and support of their family at, but Camp Can Do has some challenges ahead of us if we hope to add even more kids to our family. Earlier this year the American Cancer Society (ACS), a major funder of pediatric oncology camps all of the country, made the decision to cease funding these camps:
In addition to the lack of funds directed towards childhood cancer, ACS recently cut programs that specifically were aimed at benefiting children with cancer. The stated purpose of dropping these programs, as alleged by ACS, is to ensure that a cure for cancer is found sooner. The cut in these programs will effect children with cancer and college students who had cancer. Yet another example of how ACS simply utilizes children to attain significant wealth and then ultimately forgets all about the smallest warriors. This should come as a surprise considering the amount of money that ACS has on hand.
What this means for Camp Can Do, a patient camp, and Camp Can Do II, a four day camp for siblings, is that if we want to continue providing this opportunity for our kids we now have to raise the money ourselves. While the directors, assistant directors, counselors, and medical staff (one doctor and five nurses) are all volunteers, it still costs about $700 per camper to attend patient camp for the week.
If I ever win the lottery Camp Can Do will be set for life, but until then we could use some help. Please check out our website or like our Facebook page to see how things are going and to participate in some of the many fundraisers that will be happening throughout the year. Camp truly is one of the happiest weeks of my year, and I appreciate everybody's support to keep it running for many years to come!