Recently, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the annual R.O.C.K. Camp send-off. Reaching Out to Cancer Kids sends children, affected by all types of cancer, to Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, Florida. The beauty of Camp Boggy Creek is two-fold. Their ability to provide 7 to 16 year-olds the full summer camp experience without any concern for being labeled “different,” as all of the campers are in the same boat and understand each others’ medical issues, is priceless and allows the kids to just relax and have a good time. At the same time, the campers have access to a full-time medical staff of volunteer pediatric oncologists and nurses to administer any necessary treatments or deal with any emergencies. These unique camp attributes, along with the benefit of the Boggy Creek experience being free of charge, also set the parents’ minds at ease.
I have often been told that I should work in the healthcare industry, specifically with the elderly or children who are in declining health, given my soft heart. Truth be told, this is exactly why I have avoided such situations. My mother, knowing me best, was always the one dissenting voice saying, “You care too much and won’t be able to leave it at work. It will break your heart.” Perhaps she was right, but I believe attending the R.O.C.K. Camp send-off may have opened my eyes to a loophole.
It was very exciting to see the children arriving, discovering each station as they moved along from registration, to making their handprints, getting balloon animals made especially for them, sitting down with Mom & Dad after grabbing donuts and juice for one final pre-bus-boarding pow-wow. Some kids knew each other, either from other events or previous camps, some just enjoyed getting to know new people that they would be spending the next few days with. You could certainly feel the sense of relief that being in rooms filled with other children who look, act and feel just like they do was bringing to both the parents and the children. No explaining why they’re wearing a bandana on their head instead of hair. No describing what a port does or why they need it, or how they got sick, or if it’s contagious, or any of the myriad other questions they must have to answer daily from those who just don’t know. At last, they were just children being children. Allowed to have fun, to be the majority for once, to not be “different.” That must feel as refreshing as a cannonball into a cool summer camp lake.
Melissa De Herrera, American Cancer Society Volunteer – Greater Marco Island Unit.
Sorrow eyed send off,
I was recently invited to The Cancer Society R.O.C.K’s camp send off on July 7th. As you may recall last year we had the Hope Ball on Marco and part of the money from that fundraising event went to fund this Camp. I have to say that these children are the bravest souls I have ever met. The children range from ages 7-16 and are battling cancer. Families come from all over Florida to see their children off to camp. As I looked around I could see excitement in the children faces and sadness on their parents faces. For most parents sending your children off for a week is heart breaking, but knowing that they will have lasting experiences and friendships makes the sacrifice worth it. As time approached the minutes before send off I could see some of the children were having second thoughts. I especially recall a little boy break down while saying his goodbye to his brother. He was comforted by an older teen that had been battling cancer for years and was a returning camper. He embraced his new friend and led him to the bus and as they climbed on the bus they turned and waved with smiles on their faces. This experience makes me realize how important it is to keep these programs successful. I am fortunate to be a volunteer for such a giving organization.
Raul Medina, American Cancer Society Board Member – Greater Marco Island Unit.