If you were to ask me why I keep coming back to camp, I couldn’t answer you. To me the best answer is a speechless one. Camp is a like a separate world inside the one we all live in. A world where each and every one of us can finally feel normal and understood. All limitations and expectations are out the door. We are not judged, looked down upon or ignored by the way we look or our abilities or lack thereof. We are simply accepted, loved and cherished for who we are. If I was forced to answer in just a few words it would be simply this: I come here for the people, the environment, the friendships, the great time and mostly for what this camp has taught me about hope, courage and persistence and I want to pass that on to the younger survivors.
I wish I would have got cancer when I was younger. I only got to experience two years of this magical place and it has changed me more than anything ever has. I meet incredible staff and volunteers but mostly I meet my best friends. When you have cancer at school people stay away from you, they don’t make eye contact and even at times cross to the other side of the Hall. This is a place where I feel normal. I hope to come back as a counselor for as many years as I can.
Camp is the best place I have ever been. It’s like Christmas, New Years and my birthday all rolled into one. I have met the most incredible people, people I call my best friends. As soon as camp is done and before I even get home, I am already thinking about next year.
Sit down and let me tell you a story about the camp I go to called Camp Watcha Wanna-do!
It’s a place where miracles really do come true.
A place where you do all the things you never thought you could do.
A place that helps cancer kids make it through.
A place where cancer kids bond and make friends.
The type of friends that will help them through the think and the thin.
Friendships that will last to the very end.
It’s a placewhere second families begin.
That’s why camp watcha wanna-do is the place for me, and for you!
Jennifer, Paul, Garrett, and Henri Spoelhof
From our very first visit to the Lutheran Children’s Hospital Pediatric Oncology Clinic the nurses and staff talked with Henri about Camp Watcha-Wanna-Do. This gave all of us, but especially Henri something to look forward to during the toughest times of treatment.
The first time that Henri went to camp he was excited but also a little worried about being away for a week. It helped that Garrett was able to go with him. That is one of the special qualities of camp; the sibling is considered an important part of the equation. There were times during the week that Henri was homesick and Garrett was called over to help. It made us feel good about sending Henri, and it made Garrett feel great to be so welcomed and included in the fun.
We were a little worried about sending Henri because he was at the end of a treatment that had taken its toll on him, and he had just received chemotherapy one week before. Henri also was in the youngest age group, and he had never been away to camp. Knowing that his nurses would be there was a great comfort. When we arrived, we saw so many familiar faces. It gave us confidence that Henri would be well cared for. As we pulled into camp we immediately ran into a friend of Henri’s from school (another survivor) who has since become a close friend as a result of camp. That helped to put us at ease.
Henri and Garrett couldn’t stop telling stories from camp. For several weeks they would break into a song from camp or re-enact a funny skit. It was also a great reunion the second year when they arrived and got to see many of their friends and counselors. Describing how special CWWD is for us is nearly impossible. Camp is generally a wonderful experience for children; special friendships are made; self discovery and independence start to happen; and long lasting memories are cast. This is certainly true about CWWD, with added benefit that Henri will continue to forge relationships with other survivors who not only understand what it means to live through treatment, but who will also experience some of the same questions, concerns,
and emotions as they grow older. For at least one week every year Henri gets to be just another kid having a blast with a bunch of other kids. He is a special kid for sure, but he just wants to be treated by his peers as if the scars left by cancer are not there and don’t need any explanation.
At CWWD cancer is not forgotten, it’s normal; so it doesn’t need a lot of ‘special’ attention. Henri was a first grader when he faced cancer. He does not like to talk about it, and he may not know how to process the experience. CWWD offers the possibility that Henri will bond with other survivors who can help him understand his feelings when he is ready to explore them. It is a tremendous gift for the whole family.