Saying the words Camp Sunshine, to any average person, probably wouldn’t elicit any sort of response. And why would you? If you haven’t gotten the privilege to experience camp in any capacity, you don’t know the magic this place holds. Anyone who does know camp would describe it as “home away from home”, “the best place on earth”, “unbelievable”, and a million more things. I was lucky enough to get to experience camp for 12 years as a camper and once as a counselor. The special thing about camp is how special all the people there are, from the campers to the staff that volunteer for the week.
Getting diagnosed with cancer at five years old is a parent’s worst nightmare and even scarier for a kid. So, what can make a parent’s and kids' frightful world a little brighter? The answer was camp for my parents. Camp Sunshine was introduced to my parents at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Scottish Rite. While camp caters to kids who have/had cancer, how is a parent whose child is going through such a fragile health state going to feel like their child is in capable and safe hands? Well, Camp Sunshine staff are nothing sort of superheroes no matter what role they play. From the safety at the gates that are made by waving hands, to the counselors who come 2 days early to make sure they know the history of their campers for the week, the healthcare workers that spend their morning, afternoon, and evening passing meds and caring for the kiddos who need a little extra love with the biggest smile on their faces, and everyone else in between. With the whole camp process set up like this, parents are at such ease about sending their kids to this magical place.
Camp Sunshine was magic every summer. Every friend, camper, counselor, and staff would all say the same thing - if they could stay there all summer they would! If they had to take no vacation for 3 months to be able to volunteer for that 1 week, they would sacrifice anything to feel the magic of camp themselves.
I’m forever thankful for my time at camp and hope to keep being able to give back to campers in the future. The camp was one of the reasons I became a nurse and feel passionate about my nursing career as a nurse on the oncology floor at Children’s. I look forward to advocating for all my patients to try Camp Sunshine to feel the magic for themselves. Happy Childhood Cancer Awareness month!!
Caitlin Donahue, Camp Sunshine alumni and pediatric oncology nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.