(June 17, 2011)
From sailing to snakes, talent shows to terrapins, a group of eastern North Carolina kids spent a week in June enjoying the experiences of summer camp – at least some of the experiences.
"It's fun. I love coming every year because I like nature," said Shamiya Dade, 17, of Greenville. "I don't like the animals. I don't like reptiles. I don't do reptiles."
Dade was at Camp Hope. Along with Camp Rainbow, they are camps organized and led by staff and physicians at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. Camp Rainbow is for children with cancer, hemophilia and chronic blood disorders, and Camp Hope is for children with sickle cell disease, such as Dade.
The camps are held simultaneously at the Don Lee Center on the Neuse River near Arapahoe. This year, they were June 12-18.
The pediatric hematology/oncology staff at the medical school developed these camps to provide children with a chance to learn more about themselves and their illness. Campers participate in activities such as sailing, swimming, canoeing and crafts. They also make friends who share common experiences with illness in a monitored environment designed to meet their medical and psychosocial needs.
"It's nice to know people can relate to me and what I go through," said Jakerah Bryant, 17, of New Bern. She has sickle cell disease. She was with a group of Camp Hope attendees at the archery range June 16. Though she'd never held a bow, she did have some experience at the sport.
"I do play archery on the Wii. I'm good," she said. But the real thing she said, is"so much harder."
This week, approximately 70 campers attended from the following 15 eastern counties: Beaufort, Carteret, Edgecombe, Craven, Greene, Hertford, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Halifax, Onslow, Pitt, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.
"We've had a great week," said Jacque Sauls, director of Rainbow Services and a child life and program specialist in the ECU pediatric hematology/oncology division. A couple of campers had to be taken to Children's Hospital in Greenville for medical reasons, but most have had a good week, she said.
Seventy may seem like a lot, but many others could have participated if more funds were available. "We've had so many children we had to tell we didn't have space," Sauls said. "With funding, we could do this for hundreds of children."
Camp Rainbow began in 1985, and Camp Hope began in 1991. They can become a yearly tradition for some, such as Marcus Frederick, a 33-year-old financial analyst in Charlotte.
The first time he attended was as a child who accompanied his sister, who had cancer. Today, the company he works for requires employees to take a week off, and he uses the time to volunteer at the camp where he spent so many fun weeks.
"A lot of my best childhood memories were related to coming to Camp Rainbow every year," Frederick said as campers held and passed around a corn snake in the fish and reptile hut. "Every year, this is my renewal. I'll come back every summer God allows me to."
Camp Rainbow and Camp Hope are made possible by support and donations from the Children's Miracle Network, the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation, Dr. Linda Willis of Rocky Mount, the Garner Optimist and Opti-Ms Clubs, Clavenia "CJ" Moore and friends and family of Rocky Mount and many local civic organizations and individuals from throughout eastern North Carolina, including camp "alumni" and their families.
In the past, the camps were held on separate weeks, but ECU combined them a few years ago due to a lack of funds. It costs approximately $600 for a child to attend one of the camps.
To support the camps, call 252-744-6265 or mail donations to the ECU Medical & Health Sciences Foundation, 525 Moye Blvd., Greenville, N.C. 27834. Donations may be made online at http://www.ecu.edu/cs-dhs/mhsfoundation/gift.cfm