Yesterday morning I got up before the sun. Those of you who know me know that I am not ever up before sunrise without a good reason.
I had a great reason.
I was there as a volunteer on behalf of Flashes of Hope, a nonprofit organization that strives to use photography as a tool to change the way children with serious illnesses see themselves.
Unsure of what to expect, I was excited and a little nervous as I walked up to the entrance of the camp. I was immediately greeted by smiling camp counselors who let me know that everyone who comes to Camp Sunshine gets a hug and a bracelet. After happily receiving both, it was time to head out with the other photographers and start the day.
The kids I met were just fantastic. What struck me most was how incredibly normal they were. They were running in circles around each other, teasing and laughing as they made their way through camp. The girls were all HUGE Justin Bieber fans and some of them even sang one of his songs for me.
The counselors were energetic and upbeat and you could tell that they were thrilled to be there.
I spoke with some of the older kids who had just graduated from high school and every single one of them was going away to college. We talked about leaving home, and I asked them if they were looking forward to it. They were all very excited to move on to a place where they would be able to have more independence and not always be under the watchful eye of their parents.
We talked about life and family and plans for the future and being sick didn’t really come up.
That’s the point of Camp Sunshine.
The only thing that makes them different from any other kids is that they have cancer. When they’re surrounded by kids who have cancer, everything is equalized and everyone gets to be normal. For a whole week these kids don’t have to answer questions about what it’s like to be sick or when the next round of treatment is.
They get to splash each other in the pool. They get to zipline across the lake. They get to learn to play drums. They get to write for the camp newspaper. The girls get to giggle about boys and the boys get to try and play it cool.
They get to live.
To Jane at Flashes of Hope, thank you so very much for letting me be a part of such a wonderful organization and allowing me to meet such a fantastic group of people.
Each year campers and counselors get a new bracelet, and some of them have quite the collection!