— By Lauren Becker, CRG Scholarship Recipient and Volunteer-
When childhood cancer first touched the lives of my family, I was in the sixth grade and still very much a kid. I didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation, nor how to handle this kind of serious diagnosis given to my sister. But over the following years, cancer would have its hand in my life, and affect me in profound ways that I’m not sure I understand even as an adult. But Camp Rainbow Gold helped me to understand that I have such a special community that I am a part of, and that I won’t ever be alone.
When I first was introduced to Camp Rainbow Gold, my sister had already finished treatment and was in full remission. The worst of it was pretty much over, but I had unpacked almost none of it. (Though I didn’t realize it at the time.) But as a highschooler, I was excited to meet new people and stay busy during the summer.
The Start of an Amazing Week
In terms of cancer, I had grown accustomed to being isolated in my experience at school and in my usual friend groups. So the chance to connect with other kids and young adults that had gone through the same experience definitely had my interest. As soon as the car rolled up and I saw the feather boas, heard the loud music, and smelled the pine trees, I knew I was in for an awesome week.
Taking Time to Rest
Some of my favorite memories of my teenage years were made that week at Camp Rainbow Gold. I was in Cabin Columbine, and over the course of the week got to know each and every one of the girls in it. We made crafts, danced, ate smores together, and most importantly had toes-up together. If you’re not familiar, toes-up is the Camp Rainbow Gold term for nap time. When I was first informed of toes-up, I have to say I was totally guilty of thinking, “I’m 15, how much do I really need mandatory nap time?” But boy was I wrong. There was so much excitement packed into the days I was more than ready for toes-up by the time afternoon rolled around. It’s one of the many things I wished I could bring home with me.
The Pinecone Ceremony
But I think my most favorite memory of my first year at Camp Rainbow Gold was the Pinecone Ceremony. Towards the end of the week we were given pinecones, little sheets of paper, and ribbon. I could write anything down, tie up the papers, and tuck them inside the pinecone. Later during the ceremony we would place our pinecones in the camp fire and send them up to whatever higher power we believed in.
The ceremony ended up being one of the most deeply emotional experiences I’ve ever had. During, everyone stands around the fire to comfort one another in what has brought us all to this moment. Opening up about the pain cancer has caused is one thing, but to feel an entire community grieving with you is another. This was the event that cemented Camp Rainbow Gold in my heart, and is what keeps me coming back.
I look forward to many more years of Camp Rainbow Gold events and camps where I get to reconnect with the people who changed my life forever. Thank you Camp Rainbow Gold!