When trying to explain our programs, you sometimes hear Camp Rainbow Gold’s mission reduced to “fighting pediatric cancer,” and it always makes me wince. We don’t fight cancer, that’s what the physicians and nurses who join us every summer do with their time. Camp Rainbow Gold exists to inject hope, love and fun back into life.
We say cancer and envision this race to a cure, a hope for clean scans. But there is so much more to the disease. The families we serve face guilt, financial hardship, marital discord and loss of jobs. Our siblings deal with resentment, jealousy and long-term psycho-social impacts of the diagnosis including drug use and even suicide. The child diagnosed with cancer faces social isolation, ridicule from friends, questions if they will be able to have children, follow-up exams, fear that the cancer might come back, short-term and long-term effects of treatment including hair loss and so much more. So, while doctors are fighting this disease that follows someone the rest of their life, we are working to give them strength for the rest of their life…starting by sending them to camp.
The American Camp Association is in the middle of a five-year study on the impact of camp with the first two phases examining youth impact. They asked what campers learned at camp that they carry with them into post-secondary education and their careers. In the findings from Phase 1 of this study, former campers reported that camp helped their relationship skills, taught them an appreciation for others’ differences and assisted with responsibility and preparation for work and school. When compared to school, camp also appears to uniquely promote an appreciation for living in the moment, a love and respect for nature and a willingness to try new things. Campers also reported that the most powerful source of lasting learning was the people at camp – camp staff, volunteers and their peers, and the ongoing relationships they formed.
These results are of no surprise to Camp Rainbow Gold. We witness them all the time and they are demonstrated just by looking at some of our former campers—Carlie, now the volunteer Director of Teen Camp and part of our board finance committee; Tim, a doctor making prosthetics for pediatric patients; Joe, a successful business owner; Stacy, who wanted to experience a new culture and is now a teacher in Mexico; Leslie, who is a PhD candidate at University of California Davis. We could go on and on with examples showing how camp has a positive impact on the lives of our campers.
We go beyond the 5 camps hosted and dozens of college scholarships awarded. We go beyond the support we directly provide each year to more than 400 Idaho family members. Support of Camp Rainbow Gold, regardless of it being a donation or volunteering, goes beyond supporting our programs. Camp Rainbow Gold is invested in giving Idaho’s children and their families the strength they need to carry forward in life. Camp Rainbow Gold goes beyond – we shape lives.
Elizabeth Lizberg, Executive Director