History

Camp Rainbow Gold is the youngest 30-year-old organization you’ll ever come across. Our roots were planted way back in the ’80s, which is a powerful story worth hearing (and is a bit further down this page). From there, we grew and enjoyed tremendous support by the American Cancer Society. And just a very short time ago, as our parent organization made difficult decisions, we stayed true to our mission to serve Idaho’s children diagnosed with cancer. Our dedication to that one focus made it easy for us to decide to become our own independent non-profit organization.

We’ve made a lot of great choices over the year, but this one shines and serves us — and the families we serve — very well.

Now you’ll find us in two locations, one just blocks from the Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise, Idaho, and the other in Ketchum, Idaho, just a straight shot from where we hold our summer camps.

Every day, we find ourselves making history, be it through a teen support group or through minting relationships with new families. The victories and the hardships that come through our organization add to our rich fabric, and if you ever want to hear about any of them, we encourage you to come in. We’re here. But in the meantime, you’re probably wondering how all of this got its start. Well, let us tell you:

Once there was one boy in Twin Falls, Idaho, who was told no. His request? To go to summer camp — an experience commonplace in the lives of countless children. But for one Idaho boy, the notion of campfires, art projects and silly skits with new friends wasn’t something he thought could ever materialize. As a youngster undergoing treatment for cancer, this boy couldn’t find a camp equipped to handle his medical needs in a remote location.

He expressed his dismay to Twin Falls general surgeon Dr. David McClusky, and the rest is history, because as you may know, sometimes being told no becomes the start of a “Yes!” of imaginable proportions.

“He was a patient, and I could see the disappointment on his face when he told me he wished he could go to camp,” McClusky said. “I just got to thinking, ‘Why not?’”

This set in motion a small team of grant writers and big thinkers. One of the first children’s oncology camps in the country, Camp Rainbow Gold was established in the mid 1980s. The camp originated in McCall, Idaho, and is now held annually in August at Cathedral Pines in Ketchum.

Camp Rainbow Gold, including its summer programs, provides nearly hundreds of cancer survivors with an escape from the rigors of their illness. Due to the generosity of so many Idaho residents and major fundraising events orchestrated by wonderful volunteers, this unique camp is provided free of charge to campers and their families. Additionally, camp is attended by a full medical staff and a licensed social worker in an effort to ensure the children are supported both medically and emotionally. Camp staff and volunteers are highly trained and aim to provide a fun, safe and caring community for the children.

As the decades progressed and the bonds between Camp Rainbow Gold and the community strengthened, the need for family services and year-round programs became evident. Simply put, one week just wasn’t enough. Just like the children, parents also need a break from the rigors of a cancer diagnosis. Siblings often feel pushed aside and also need validation and encouragement. A Junior Counselor program has grown over the years to provide a natural transition for campers and others who have turned 18 and still want to be a part of the Camp Rainbow Gold family. Dr. McClusky’s original vision has transcended to a year-round program to include camps for siblings and families as well as other support and events throughout the year.

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