Hi! I’m Peter Schaefer, serving as this year’s Dancer Relations Coordinator for raiseRED. But raiseRED is not my only tie to children and families suffering from cancer and blood disorders. Once a week every summer I volunteer at a camp called "Camp Quality"
June 23rd was the first day of this year’s Camp Quality Kentuckiana, an annual gathering of counselors and campers excited for zip-lining, fireworks, crafts, lake activities, card games and fun. For the uninitiated, Camp Quality is a five-day, overnight summer camp for children ages 5-16 who are either battling cancer or are survivors. But it’s more than just a summer camp for these kids; it’s a chance for “kids to be kids again” (the camp motto). During training this year, Executive Director Eddie Bobbit relayed the story of his conversation with one of the oncologists at Norton Children’s pediatric unit.
“The doctor said the kids come to the clinic for medicine but come to camp to heal.”
Camp is a group of kids who don’t have to feel different for their experience with cancer because it’s an experience they all share. It’s a chance for a 9-year-old boy who has spent a third of his life in a hospital room being treated for a disease he’s too young to know as well as he does to climb a fifty-foot ropes course while his best friend’s chant his name below. It’s a place that is unmistakably a celebration of life and childhood. These past three years, I’ve been lucky enough to be one of those counselors (“companions”). I’ve been able to form bonds with these campers and have had the pleasure of experiencing the community driving what has become one of the most impactful things in which I’ve participated.
Cancer and blood disorders affect more than just the body. They prevent a boy or girl from having the experience of being carefree. They steal a childhood. For the families of children diagnosed, they are an interruption on their very way of life. Treatment, therefore, cannot just be at a hospital. We must be the community that tells these families that they will get through this, that we will help, and that they are not alone. I’m honored to participate in both raiseRED and Camp Quality—organizations who make up that community and are changing the world one child at a time.