By Elizabeth Lizberg, Executive Director —
Like everyone right now, Camp Rainbow Gold has experienced a challenging time these past few weeks. It feels like a lifetime ago (and also just yesterday) when we were excitedly planning a celebrated gala event that would launch another year of camp, only to turn around and watch it all disappear into a cloud of uncertainty moments later. Since then, the ups and downs have been endless.
We have spent a lot of time reflecting on our mission and our purpose, on what Camp means to Idaho’s children and families. We have had to take a hard look at our expectations and do a tough reset. Things are different now; camp will look different. But we’re also working on renewal and revitalization. We’re taking ourselves down to the foundation and rebuilding a strong program to move forward.
Moments of Reflection
While supporting families we often hear stories of the moment they receive the news, “Your child has cancer.” They share the feeling that life as they know it is shattered. They describe the loss of a future they always imagined, the financial concerns suddenly dumped on their lap and the isolation that comes with the diagnosis.
During this time of reflection, we have taken note of what we are going through with COVID-19 restrictions. Isolation, fear, financial uncertainty and vulnerability—it’s allowing us a small window to understanding what families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis feel like. But while our state and country are making plans to reopen and are eager to get back to “normal”, cancer has not stopped for these families. In fact, in a situation that was already dire, they likely feel even more fearful of how they will recover.
Reflection has allowed us to take a step back and remember where Camp Rainbow Gold started and how far we’ve come. Thirty-six years ago, a boy wanted to go to summer camp. We got him there—and then thousands of more kids over the years. We have a strong foundation and an incredible community, and we’ll find a way to provide.
Hit the Reset Button
Honestly, we are still working through the shock of some dramatic changes. Just 48 hours from what was lined up to be our most successful fundraiser in the history of Camp Rainbow Gold, we had to cancel Share Your Heart Ball. Our efforts at Hidden Paradise to build Idaho’s first Medical Camp came to a screeching halt, even though we see the need for the safe haven of medical camp now more than ever. We have put all our time and energy toward figuring out how to deliver emotionally empowering experiences to the children.
Our college scholarship program will still award funds to campers, but we must find new ways to celebrate their achievements from afar. Our teen support group is coming up with more creative ways to keep in touch, provide a necessary outlet and have fun together.
We made the incredibly difficult decision to change our camp programs to be a remote or at-home experience this year. Our time of reflection provided understanding and caution, but also even more drive and inspiration. Camp Rainbow Gold is working to develop a camp experience to our campers and their families that is empowering, engaging, fun and safe.
In all these efforts, we are once again in awe of our volunteers. At a time when it would be so easy to step away or wait for camp to return to a week in the mountains—instead, they have taken on the tasks of developing an entirely different camp experience with an entirely different setting and challenges with all the excitement and determination they bring to every program, every year.
Time to Rebuild
Being forced to hit “reset” took us back to basics—back to our mission and our values. We are here to provide emotionally empowering experiences to Idaho children who have been diagnosed with cancer. It is vital to deliver on our mission and provide connections and support for these families.
As we rebuild a program and renew our dedication to our mission, we are also discovering incredible skills from our volunteers that we don’t always get to utilize up at camp. We are going to be able to reach children who have been unable to participate in the past. We can welcome children in the hospital or those who are too medically fragile. We can build connections we’ve never been able to forge before.
We do have an incredibly strong foundation. We’re resetting expectations and reminding everyone Camp Rainbow Gold is so much more than a time, a place or an activity. We’re renewing our commitment to Idaho families and rebuilding our programs for these times. And most importantly, we’re all doing it together.
Thank you for being part of the Camp Rainbow Gold family. Keep Shining.