February 24th was a magical evening! I joined with Camp Sunshine alumni, volunteers, parents, supporters, board members, and friends at the Atlanta History Center to celebrate 40 years of Camp Sunshine! Many of the individuals who gathered are a part of the fabric that has made Camp Sunshine possible over four decades.
I looked out over the ballroom with such gratitude for each person in that room, for the positive impact of our organization, and for the people who have given so much throughout our history. To celebrate this milestone was amazing and to be together in person was truly a ray of hope for us all.
When I was interviewed recently, I was asked to describe the effect that Camp Sunshine has had on people. It is almost an impossible task to put into words – and I know I am not alone when I fall short trying to answer that question. I have been to every summer camp since our first one in 1983. I have seen a lot of campers over that time…
- I have seen a teen who has lost a leg to cancer, learn to swim again.
- I have seen a child with one arm scale the climbing wall while her cabin mates cheered her on.
- I have seen a camper cry when their parents left them at camp for the first time because they didn’t want to be there – only to cry at the end of the week because they didn’t want to leave.
- I have had parents thank us after camp, saying we gave them back the child that cancer had taken away – that they have a completely different outlook on life.
- I have seen a former camper tell me 20 years later that one week at camp was the most transformative experience in their life.
- I have seen families arrive at Family Camp for the first time – feeling stunned and isolated by the new reality that their child has cancer and within hours finding community, hope, and connections.
- I have had parents tell me that family camp was the best thing that happened to them since being diagnosed – that it was life changing.
- I have seen friendships that last a lifetime.
- I have had parents tell me, “The support from other Camp Sunshine families saved my family from a very dark time.”
- I have seen Camp Sunshine bring joy amid a fearful and traumatic time.
- I have seen kids tell their parents – “at camp they treated me like a kid, not a kid with cancer.”
- I have seen our campers graduate and go on to careers dedicated to helping children with cancer and other traumatic life events heal and thrive. They give back because they received the care and hope from their medical team and their Camp Sunshine counselors.
- I have seen a camper grow up to become our camp nurse and then our camp director.
What have I seen? Magic, Hope, Love, Inspiration, Resilience, Determination, Strength, Friendships, Growth, Compassion – and lots of Fun!
As our founder, Dorothy Jordan, commented, “We had no idea of the depth of this community. It is like a thread that gets stitched through all of us that binds us together in a way I couldn’t have fathomed that first camp.” Just think what we will do in the next 40 year!