— By Beth Frasier CRG Social Worker –
I first heard about Camp Rainbow Gold during my undergraduate in college. A very close friend shared his experience of volunteering with CRG, and it sounded magical. It would take five years before I heard about it again, this time a current volunteer was trying to recruit me.
My First Year
I have been the social worker for Teen Oncology Camp since 2021. CRG’s first year at Hidden Paradise was my first year, ever. I cannot tell you the amount of anxiety I felt. I was volunteering to participate with a large group of people I didn’t know, for a whole week! This was very unnatural for me, but I had been told by the Youth Oncology Camp’s social worker, Ashley, that it was amazing.
When I got to camp, there was an immediate sense of family. Everyone was so excited to see each other, excited for the campers to arrive, and excited to see Hidden Paradise. It didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable amongst this group of wonderful people. Then the campers arrived. The best way I can describe what it feels like when the campers get off the bus is, after you get a Christmas tree decorated and plug the lights in. What was beautiful before, just became exponentially more beautiful. The campers increased the amount of energy the volunteers showed up with, and that energy lasted all week.
The Smash Room
That first week, I saw teens challenge themselves physically and emotionally. One of my favorite activities was the Smash Room. Each camper got a plate and could write whatever they wanted on it. They were encouraged to write about emotions or situations they were struggling with, then they would smash the plates on a tree stump with a mallet. After the camper smashed their plate, they could smash watermelons, Snack Packs of pudding and Jell-O, apples, potatoes, etc. It was arguably the most moving experience I’ve had at camp, besides the Wish Cone Ceremony. These campers visualized hardships and frustrations. They confronted them, head-on. I witnessed the cathartic and physical manifestation of allowing themselves to react, without filter, to whatever held them. You could sense the power this activity gave back to them. The emotions spanned the gamut. There were tears, shouts, laughter, and encouragement.
Camp Rainbow Gold’s mission is to provide emotionally empowering experiences to Idaho’s children and families impacted by childhood cancer. Camp Rainbow Gold, it’s volunteers, campers, and families, changed my life in seven days. I gained a new family at camp; people I never would have met but now cannot imagine life without. I gained new perspective. I saw teens in remission, teens in active treatment, teens with various physical or emotional limitations do anything and everything the world outside of Hidden Paradise encourages them not to do. Most importantly, I saw teens in an environment that allowed them to be teens, unapologetically. There are no limitations or judgements here. There is only support, growth, acceptance, and love. Camp Rainbow Gold is emotionally empowering for all.
This is my “why”.