For the Kids
Camp Rainbow Gold is a nonprofit organization serving Idaho children diagnosed with cancer and their families. What started in the mid-’80s as a week of camp for a handful of children diagnosed with cancer is now much, much more. Yes, Camp Rainbow Gold is still a summer oncology camp, but it’s also a sibling camp and a family camp. It’s a college scholarship program and a teen support group. It’s 365 days of making a difference in the lives of these children as well as their families and others who support them.
How We Make A Difference
Our roots were planted way back in the ’80s, when one boy in Twin Falls, Idaho, was told “no.” His request? To go to summer camp — an experience commonplace in the lives of countless children. But for this one boy, the notion of campfires, art projects and silly skits with new friends wasn’t something he thought could ever be possible. As a youngster undergoing treatment for cancer, this boy couldn’t find a camp equipped and willing to handle his medical needs in a remote location.
The boy expressed his dismay to Twin Falls general surgeon Dr. David McClusky. That “no” became the launch of a “YES!” of unimaginable proportions.
“He was a patient, and I could see the disappointment on his face when he told me he wished he could go to summer camp,” McClusky said. “I just got to thinking, ‘Why not?’”
This set in motion a small team of grant writers and big thinkers. Camp Rainbow Gold was officially established in the mid-1980s as one of the first children’s oncology camps in the country. From there, we grew and enjoyed tremendous support by the American Cancer Society. Then, in 2013, as our parent organization made difficult decisions, we stayed true to our mission to serve Idaho’s children diagnosed with cancer. Our singular focus made the decision to become an independent nonprofit organization easy. We’ve made a lot of great choices over the years, but that one shines and serves us — and the families we serve — very well.
Building a Foundation
As decades progressed and the bonds between Camp Rainbow Gold and the community strengthened, the need for family services, continued involvement, 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 need validation and encouragement. The love of camp doesn’t end when you turn 18, so our Junior Volunteer program provides a natural transition for campers to become volunteers and give back to their Camp Rainbow Gold family.
Camp Rainbow Gold provides cancer survivors with an escape from the rigors of their illnesses. With the generosity of many donors and major fundraising events orchestrated by wonderful volunteers, our unique programs are provided free of charge to all campers and their families. Additionally, camps are attended by a full medical staff and a licensed social worker to ensure the children are supported both medically and emotionally. Program staff and volunteers are highly trained and aim to provide a fun, safe and caring community for children, siblings and parents through every interaction.
Dr. McClusky’s original vision for camp has transcended into a year-round community of support and encouragement for Idaho families facing difficult circumstances. 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 get involved.
Still want to learn more?
The Camp Rainbow Gold camp program originated in McCall, Idaho, and then spent many years north of Ketchum in the Sawtooth National Forest. Today, you’ll find us in three locations: one just blocks from the St. Luke’s Cancer Institute in Boise, Idaho; another in Ketchum, Idaho, an incredible community that has been supporting Camp Rainbow Gold through events, partnerships, sponsorships, and donations since our inception; and our new home in Fairfield, Idaho.
Like many medical-needs camps and organizations, Camp Rainbow Gold leased land to operate our summer programs. We face challenges such as capacity, accommodations for medical needs, long-term leases, infrastructure and capital improvements needs, and increased safety risks. We’ve always considered whether there was more we could do to face the hard reality of new childhood cancer diagnoses in Idaho and an increase in demand for our programs.
In 2019, Camp Rainbow Gold purchased 172 acres of land in Fairfield, Idaho, called Hidden Paradise Camp. With a permanent home for camp, we can provide a stable base for activities and learning experiences. With 172 acres, we can finally expand — more bunk houses, more activities, more grounds to explore. Imagine what it would be like to build a home that could welcome generation after generation of Idaho children and their families.
Having an Idaho-based medical camp presents an enormous opportunity for Camp Rainbow Gold, as well as other Idaho nonprofits with like-missions, to collaborate and serve a growing need in one of the most beautiful and therapeutic places on earth. Our vision is to create and maintain an Idaho Medical Camp, a welcoming space designed specifically for guests with medical needs to securely connect with nature and each other.
We’re excited for this vision to take shape. We want to create A New Place Like Home. We’ll continue to update our Camp Rainbow Gold family and the community of our news and progress via our websites, blog, and social media.
If you are interested in getting involved in this exciting project, please contact Lonni Leavitt-Barker at email@example.com or 208-350-6435.