Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be asked to be a part of an organization called Courageous Kidz. A little background on Courageous Kidz, they are an organization focused on helping kids, teens and their families overcome the hardships of cancer through various fun-filled activities and events. Some of the kids are currently diagnosed, while others are in remission. Many of these kids have been coming for years and have formed a tight knit group. Several of the counselors were once even campers themselves, so they can relate on various levels with current campers. This events give kids, parents and siblings something to look forward too, and gives them a support group to lean on. However, most importantly, it provides the campers with a break from the harsh reality of cancer. Even if it’s only for a weekend, these kids are allowed to feel like just that, kids. None of this would be possible without the constant dedication and care from Debby “Flash” Stephenson. She is truly amazing and I was grateful to be able to work alongside her throughout the duration of the weekend.
At first I was nervous because I was unsure what to expect. I knew the basics, I would be spending Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning with campers and other counselors. I would be assigned two campers, and I would be with them the whole time. Instead of traditional camp, we stayed in a hotel but our adventures throughout the weekend took us all over Charleston. We swam in the hotel pool together, took part in a scavenger hunt, had a nice afternoon at Wide Awake Plantation, and even went to a country club for a talent show. Most of the counselors had volunteered before, so many of them already knew each other. Fortunately, I knew two of the other counselors from my college. Meeting the different campers, it was hard at first to distinguish who was currently fighting cancer, who had already fought it, and then which campers were siblings. Even by the end of the weekend I was still not positive who was who, but that was okay. This was the weekend for these kids to be more than just their diagnosis. As the days progressed, and the activities kept coming, I got the real feeling that this was just a regular camp. I almost forgot the entire nature of the camp, cancer.
The wakeup call came when two counselors, and previous campers got up to sing at the talent show. They had decided to sing Fight Song, by Katie Perry. They explained that a previous camper who battled cancer used to sing this song at every talent show at camp, but unfortunately had passed away last year so they were singing the song in her honor. That's when it sunk in and really hit home. This was not a normal camp. It was not a fun filled weekend for normal teens. These kids and teens were going through something I had never had to deal with. These campers, counselors and directors alike had experienced this many times before. Close friends passing away and not returning to camp. The personal fear of not knowing whether the cancer will reappear in them, or in their friends, or even in their siblings. The uneasiness that this was an everyday thing for these patients and their families. During the song, many teared up, and several had to leave the room. It was tough, it was uncomfortable, but it was the harsh truth. Some of these kids and teens may never beat the cancer, not because they lack the strength, grit, or fight. But because sometimes the disease is just too much for their bodies.
Flash has a saying, "The child has the disease, but the family has the cancer." Which is true, it impacts everyone involved on such a deep level. Courageous Kidz is certainly a safe haven for kids with cancer. In getting the opportunity to be a part of this teen weekend, and meeting the campers and counselors alike I truly experience a life-changing event. It put so much into prospective. After all of this, how could I complain about such mundane occurrences such as a heavy class load, or simple inconveniences such as having to stay later at work. I am privileged to have such small problems, and must remind myself that I am fortunate in my circumstances. I urge everyone to get involved in some type of volunteer opportunity surrounding childhood cancer, because it will genuinely open your eyes. I cherish almost 40 hours I got to spend with these courageous kids, and can't wait to get more involved in different activities and events in every way possible.
For those who want to learn more or donate to this tremendous organization, below is the link to their website: