Cancer, Camp and Community Change

Sep 20, 2021 | Camp Rainbow Gold

By Trevor Schaefer, Former Camper and President and Founder of Trevor’s Trek Foundation —

No words can describe how devastating a diagnosis of cancer is for a child and their family.  It’s human nature to think, “It will never happen to me…us.”  But it did happen to me and my family.

In November of 2002, at the age of 13, I was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a highly malignant form of brain cancer.  For years I battled the bully that is cancer, but I am happy to report, I won my battle.

My Camp Experience

Growing up I never had any interest in camp. When my mom told me about Camp Rainbow Gold, I wasn’t having any of it! It was a combination of me never going to camp before cancer and then not wanting to go because I was so weak and uncoordinated. I was embarrassed to be around people. But my mom knew it would be good for me to be around others who were struggling just like me, so she made me go.

For the first couple of days, I hated it! I was angry about being forced to go. I even considered running away, and probably would have — but I couldn’t walk very well at the time, so didn’t do it. The docs even called my mom to tell her it wasn’t working out and she needed to come to get me.

Instead, my mom got me on the phone and set me straight. Once I realized I was “stuck” at Camp, I had a great time the rest of the week! It’s like I had a shield up that didn’t let me see what a fun and inviting place Camp was, that every other camper there was different and struggling like me too.

I have so many great memories at Camp but my most memorable is that I learned to play poker! Our cabin went horseback riding one day, but I am allergic to horses and didn’t want to take any allergy meds. One of the counselors stayed back with me and taught me how to play poker instead. It was so great!

I think my whole experience speaks to the power of Camp Rainbow Gold, if it can change the mind of someone like me into loving it, then it is a very special place! I really love CRG, and the happiness Camp brings to so many kids that are struggling!

Still Fighting

My fight against cancer did not stop with survival and the pronouncement of being cancer-free. In 2007 with the help of my mother and longtime friend Susan Rosser I held the first-ever Childhood Cancer Awareness Walk in Idaho and in 2009 Trevor’s Trek Foundation became an official nonprofit organization to create childhood cancer awareness and support research and investigation into the causation and prevention of childhood cancer.

Trevor’s Trek Foundation is committed to its mission to help facilitate research into the causes of childhood cancer and to develop the means to eradicate those causes. National legislation was introduced entitled Trevor’s Law to help pinpoint and eradicate the predatory cancers caused by exposure to toxins in our environment.  Trevor’s Law was signed by President Barack Obama on June 22, 2016.

Creating Community Change

As part of our mission and research, Trevor’s Trek Foundation has created a Childhood Cancer Cluster Buster Program to identify and track possible childhood cancer cluster sites and to help provide a safer community for our children and their loved ones.

If you or someone you know has experienced childhood cancer, please consider filling out this survey to help TTF identify and track childhood cancer clusters throughout the United States.

My fight against cancer will continue until my mission of providing a healthier future for children and communities is achieved.  We have a long way to go, but the road to great success starts with the first step.