Summer camps hold special place

By Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

For many kids, summer camp is a formative experience. For some, it can be so formative that it — well, let’s put it this way. The summer after fourth grade, I went to summer camp for the first time. Two other boys and I were so happy there we decided to try to run away the night before parental pickup. We wanted to stay at camp, you see. Didn’t give much thought to the long-term feasibility of that, however.
 
Imagine yourself as a child challenged with a life changing illness. Say, cancer. Imagine yourself, then, facing all of the implications of that illness in your life, while you also face the stigma of feeling “different.” Then you get the opportunity to attend camp with other children who are like yourself.
 
I am looking forward to going to New Mexico’s Camp Enchantment, which is run by the American Cancer Society for children who are in just that situation. I am looking forward to volunteering my time, and plenty of outdoor education experience, to make good things happen.
 
You see, many of these children will survive and do just fine. The more we discover about cancer, and ways to treat it, the more that number will increase. Not surprisingly, most of these children like to swim, play softball, hike in the mountains, make projects in crafts, and all of the stuff that kids do at summer camp. They are not going to come to a week of camp to sit around feeling sorry for themselves, or mourn how their lives could have been different.
 
Hope, not mope, is a great motivator. Group support is a powerful catalyst in healing, coping, feeling good, feeling normal — all of the things that might challenge a child, or an adult, with a life changing illness.
 
We can’t underestimate the value of outdoor beauty, of athletic activities where everyone wins, of being part of a healing community. We also cannot underestimate the value of a trained and compassionate adult staff.
 
Camps for special interest groups are important. Cheerleading camp, basketball camp, church camp, etc., all fill valuable needs. These kids are cross sectional in that way. They are cheerleaders, ballplayers, church kids, etc., all having one thing in common. They may know better than many kids — or adults — the value of life.
 
Camp is expensive, even with volunteer leadership. Perhaps you would like to designate a contribution to Camp Enchantment specifically. You could make it in honor of every fourth grader who ever tried to finagle an extra week at camp.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: clyde_davis@yahoo.com