By Hallie Auth, CRG volunteer, former camper, and scholarship recipient —
I was fifteen years old when I was diagnosed with bone cancer. At the time I didn’t really have a good understanding of what was happening, and I just did whatever the doctors and nurses told me to do. I didn’t have the space to look toward the future and get excited about all the amazing things that waited for me. All I could think about were the negative effects cancer would have on my future if I was lucky. Six days or so after I finished my last chemotherapy session my whole family moved from Cleveland, Ohio to McCall, Idaho. We had wanted to move for a long time, but my illness held us back and thankfully Cleveland has an amazing hospital system that took amazing care of me. However, moving to Idaho had a positive impact on my life in more ways than one.
When I first moved to Idaho, I had to meet with a local oncologist in Boise to line up all my aftercare and have someone that is familiar with me in case anything happened. I ended up at St. Luke’s and my oncologist, Dr. Chang mentioned this thing called Camp Rainbow Gold. At the time I had no idea what this camp was or what it was about or if I even wanted to go. This was in January, so I had some time to think about it.
Thankfully, my mom saw how good camp would be for me and signed me up as early as possible to ensure I could go. I was new to Idaho. I had no idea how gorgeous it was and that there were a million activities to do here. My first summer at camp I got to experience a full week of celebrating life and connecting with others who had been through similar experiences as me. I had never really met people my age who could relate to my story and it was so incredibly freeing to know that I wasn’t alone. I was in a new state, a new stage of life, and I was becoming a new person as I discovered everything I had learned in my experience with cancer. It was amazing.
However, the coolest part about Camp Rainbow Gold is that I got to share it. My little sisters are twins, Isabel and Julia, and they are six years younger than me. We have always gotten along well but we were never super close until I got the opportunity to be their junior counselor at camp. It was my second year at camp, and I had turned eighteen before the summer, so I got to be a junior volunteer at the sibling camp that year. My sisters and I were so excited to go together, I rode the bus with them, and I even ended up being in one of my sisters’ cabins. We spent the whole week together, raiding each other’s cabins, shouting each other out at dinners, and I got to help them both get ready for the dance at the end of the week.
The twins and I never really discussed cancer it was kind of a hard topic to bring up with them, so when I held the two of them at the pinecone ceremony on the very last night at camp and heard both of them tell me what they had been feeling when I was sick it felt like a door opened between the three of us. They felt comfortable opening up to me and we talked about all sorts of things that had happened during that year that we never really discussed before. We took the bus home together and sat as close as possible the whole drive and they have been my best friends ever since.
Even when COVID made camp go virtual in 2020 we still participated as best as we could. We decorated each other’s rooms as if they were our cabins. We raided each other’s “cabins” as stealthily as possible. We spent hours doing the crafts that CRG had mailed us and even though it was online we still had an awesome week at camp in our own home.
Isabel and Julia are my best friends still and even though I’m going into my senior year at college, and they are headed into their sophomore year of high school we still talk or text each other almost every day. When I am home, we even work together at the same diner in McCall called My Fathers Place. This past summer I even shared a room with Isabel for half of the summer without any arguments (somehow). I am incredibly grateful for everything camp has done for me and I am so grateful to have family like my little sisters who I know will always be there for me and I will always be there for them.
Thank you Camp Rainbow Gold.