My First Time At Camp Sunshine
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Health and Wellness

My First Time At Camp Sunshine

"The sun shines not on us, but in us." — John Muir

My First Time At Camp Sunshine
Shauna Golden

This past week, I spent six days volunteering at Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine. Camp Sunshine is a retreat for kids and families with life-threatening illnesses. With on-site activities such as rock climbing, mini-golfing and boating, this place is somewhere these families can go to relax and enjoy themselves for a few days.

While the kids are busy playing with the volunteers, the parents attend information sessions that teach them more about their child’s disease.

This week was Diamond Blackfan Anemia week. Diamond Blackfan Anemia is a disease which individuals have difficulty creating red blood cells due to bone marrow failure syndrome. Because the camp is for entire families, not every child at the camp necessarily has the disease.

Being placed in the Tot-Lot and Nursery group with kids ages 0-5, I certainly had my fair share of activity. What truly amazed me was how incredible these kids truly are. It was pretty difficult to tell which children had the disease by physical appearance; I had to check their name tag to see whether or not it had an asterisk.

The kids with and without the disease seemed to be equally as energetic during the session. Whether I was chasing them around on the playground, digging in the sandbox or just sharing a laugh, I was amazed by each and every one of these kids. The ones that have this disease showed such resilience and positivity and their siblings showed nothing but love and protectiveness.

The week brought with it so many emotions, some of which I wasn't expecting. Meeting the kids was both exciting and nerve-racking. Sure, they’re no more than 5 years old, but what if they didn’t like me? I was just as nervous to meet them as they probably were to meet us.

Throughout the week, I’m pretty sure I smiled and laughed more than I have in a while. Kids truly do say the funniest things, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Hearing their loud giggles and seeing the smiles on their faces was amazing.

Toward the end of the week, the children decorated “wish boats” (little wooden boats) in arts and crafts. Then, on the last night of the session, volunteers and families all gathered at the pond to light the candles on the wish boats. Then the entire Camp Sunshine community counted to three, blew out the candles and made a wish. At the same time, balloons were released into the sky for anyone who was touched by Diamond Blackfan Anemia. Seeing all the families around us was touching, but hard at the same time. I couldn’t begin to imagine what they go through each and every day, and I almost started crying during the ceremony.

The last day was the hardest of them all. I had to say goodbye to the amazing children that had made the entire week worth it. Before they left, one of my kids told me they were going to come visit me so they could give me a high-five. That exchange just made me realize how even though everyone is fighting their own battle (whether it be physical, mental or emotional), people can come together and just celebrate each other. Giving back to those in need is an amazing feeling, and it will teach you things you never knew before — even in the darkest times people find ways to let the sun shine in.

Camp Sunshine was a truly incredible place and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The families are so strong and amazing, and I hope to volunteer again sometime soon.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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