By Vicki Funaiole, CRG Volunteer —
Was it being in the right place at the right time or was it just good karma? This one opportunity so many years ago has become pure magic today. The national American Cancer Society office sent out a notice that seed funds were available to start children’s oncology camps. I was the ACS State Service and Rehabilitation Chairperson at the time and said “Yes, let’s submit an application.”
Little did I imagine how Camp would become such a magical place where big and small miracles happen daily. The minute the volunteers and then campers arrive, life changes.
Starting at Paradise Point
Our first location was Paradise Point in McCall, Idaho. Funds were limited, so we beat the bushes looking for donations; food, school busses, art supplies. We even brought our own cook who let campers make individual pizzas and provided a spectacular luau on the beach. Volunteers in Smith’s Ferry would provide lunch when the bus stopped for a break on the trip to camp. Donated boats were available for waterskiing, sailing on a catamaran, sailboarding, and canoes. The Fish and Game Department would bring fish to camp the first day in a large water truck. The kids would carry buckets of live fish from the truck to the lake. Most of the fish made it into the water, but a few hit the beach and then the lake.
Each afternoon the entire camp met at the beach for waterfront time: swimming, greased watermelon football, sandcastles, beach golf, and searching for Ralphie’s glasses hidden in the sand. Once, we had a guest performance by an exotic swim team (the guys dressed up again!)
Island hopping — a swim between a number of small islands near the Pointe — happened one afternoon each year. Campers looked forward to qualifying for the hop. The Pointe was a large rocky outcropping west of the camp, where we hiked, attended the cathedral, and held the Haunted Walk.
Arts and Crafts were held in a large hall. Jessica, a cancer survivor and the Art Director, was terrified of mice. When she opened the door to the hall, turned on the lights she would begin yelling and stomping her feet to frighten away the mice. None of us ever saw any mice, but she repeated this daily, “Just in case.”
Campfire each evening on the beach with the lake and mountains in the background was breathtaking. Skits, cowboy poets, music — so much still sounds like today’s camps. Frank was employed by Paradise Point but was persuaded to play his guitar at our campfires and the rest is history.
Wishcones ended the Camp — a surreal ceremony as our decorated bark boats with candles floated out onto the dark lake. It was more brilliant than stars in the sky.
Miracles and Magic
One little miracle happened during Karina’s first camper year. She had left her favorite doll, “Baby” at home and was inconsolable. The first night a borrowed stuffed animal failed to comfort her. So we made an emergency call to her Mom, who put Baby on the Greyhound bus to McCall. The bus driver dutifully handed over Baby to the camp volunteer in McCall who delivered Baby to a very delighted little girl.
Each Camp brings new adventures, stories, and most importantly so many miracles. The love, joy, and celebration hook you and suddenly you’ve become a “Campie”. You find yourself with a new Camp family, and looking forward to that special week each year when you step away from reality, time, places, and people, and become part of a Magic Kingdom.