— By Joe Rowley, CRG Former Camper and Volunteer-
The Rowley family has been involved with CRG for about a dozen years. Our kids have been campers since they were old enough to participate — One survivor and two siblings. And our family has been to several family camps, including the former winter camp (which we loved!). But by far my best experiences have come as we’ve transitioned to the volunteer side of things.
I love all camps, but I think my favorites are the family camps. As a volunteer and a parent who has “been through it”, family camp gives a unique opportunity to see how much the entire family can benefit from the CRG experience. I’d like to share one wonderful experience from the recent Spring Family Camp.
There was one amazing camper who is still undergoing treatment. Like so many of our campers, he experiences many of the scars of cancer, including social and emotional ones. I get the impression that this was the family’s first major experience with camp and his mother wanted him to be able to participate in the oncology camp in a few weeks. But she had some real concerns: Will he be accepted? Will he be able to make friends? Or will he be left out? Will he feel all alone? She was carrying all of the concerns that a mother has for her son.
During kids’ and parents’ night, I had the privilege of being next to her as she came down the hill to check in on things. She stood back and watched her shy, reserved son sitting with a group that had immediately welcomed him with open arms. He was laughing and making real connections as he and other campers talked about things that only they could understand — treatment, doctors, the experience of cancer.
As the mom stood there in tears, I felt like I could see a certain amount of the concern that she carries every day lifting off her shoulders. She knew that in this place, with these kids, she could put aside a certain amount of her worries because he is among friends that he never knew he had.
The moment only lasted a minute, but it made a strong impression on me about the magic that we get to be a part of as CRG volunteers. These are the experiences that keep me and my family coming back camp after camp after camp.