Happy, Happy Eyes
Posted on by Camper Mom Julia
“Sad eyes, Sad eyes...everywhere you go, people’s sad eyes looking at me. That’s why I love Camp. Happy, happy eyes! Oh and I caught and kissed a fish.” - Sophie, in treatment for Leukemia, as we drove away from our first Family Weekend at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp
When we first drove through The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp gate for a spring Family Weekend, I almost burst into tears. It was emotional coming to terms with the idea that we were a family with a child with cancer and that we were visiting a camp for children facing serious illnesses.
Our daughter Sophie had been diagnosed with Leukemia a few months before, and this was one of our first trips away from home and the hospital. Over the two and a half years of Sophie’s active treatment, we spent over 159 days in patient, had 29 procedures under sedation, 3,000 plus doses of chemotherapy and spent up to three days per week in the out-patient clinic. Our Shumba (Sophie’s nickname meaning Lion Cub) led the way boldly, but it felt like a marathon.
Over the course of that first Family Weekend at Camp and many times to come, our family found strength, courage, support, laughter, fun, friendship, family and hope. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp has brought healing to every member of our family over the last eight years, whether it’s been at Family Weekends, camper and sibling sessions, Parent and Caregiver Retreats or most recently the Hero’s Journey® program. Every single session each of us has attended has been a unique experience, and we have encountered helpful hands, warm embraces, laughter, love and smiling faces at every turn. Every need is always met, whether we are able to articulate it or not. It is simply the best medicine and the greatest gift for patients, siblings and families both during and post treatment. Camp has built incredible character in my kids - the magic of Camp is part of who they are.
“When I am a big girl and I come back, I am going to climb the ladder and sleep on the top bunk!” Sophie announced boldly on that first Family Weekend. She had spent the majority of that weekend in the large dress up closet and even sang a solo at Stage Night! Over the years Sophie has gone to many Camp sessions, made some of her best friends, and developed her passion for singing with the most supportive audience in the world.
“I had the best week of my life! Promise me I’ll come again!” Ava, Sophie's big sister, exclaimed as we drove away from Camp after her first sibling session. We would come to hear those words after every visit over the years. Ava always had the time of her life during the action packed and fun Camp sessions - swimming, games, group activities, fishing, Stage Night, games and so much more. But what she appreciated most was being with other children who shared her experience of having a sibling with a serious illness. The sibling journey is a difficult one and Camp understands that, as is reflected in all of their programming.
As parents, Camp has given us a safe haven to talk about our experience with other parents who understand firsthand what it means to have a child with a serious illness and the impact on the whole family. The Parent and Caregiver Retreat was one of the best weekends we had had in years...and in true Camp style, we danced like it was 1993!!! I now volunteer at the Parent and Caregiver Retreat Weekends and love serving and sharing our experiences with families newer to the journey.
We are forever grateful and look forward to a lifetime with our Camp family - both as participants and most importantly as volunteers. It's a gift we want to keep passing on!