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Unexpected hope given at Summer camp

Posted: April 12, 2014 - 12:30pm

For many children, summer is a time of laughter, passing time with friends and getting into mischief, but for kids battling cancer, sometimes summers are full of hospital stays, needles and countless nights away from home. According to kidsvcancer.org statistics, 35,000 children are currently being treated for cancer. This number increases by 13,500 each year in the United States alone. Yet, despite these numbers, hope is on the horizon with Camp Quality Arkansas. The camp strives to let “kids with cancer be kids again” according to the website slogan.

Camp Quality originated in 1983 in Sydney, Australia. The camp was created to give kids and their family a place to interact with other children and have an extraordinary summer. Activities are designed with kids in mind such as swimming, fishing, arts and crafts, and even the beloved campfires.

The camp is not specific to younger kids, but also offers programs for teens up to age 18. Leadership programs for ages 13 and over are also available at the camp.

Camp Quality Arkansas is no stranger to camp Executive Director, Chris Jennings. “I began as a companion in 1989, the first year in Arkansas,” said Jennings.

Passionate staff and directors is only one amazing aspect of the camp. The safety of campers and staff are also of top priority to Camp Quality Arkansas. Each Staff member is required to attend a training session. Within these sessions, each potential staff member gets to know the program and then a decision is made to decide where he or she will fit best in the camp.

Teams of doctors and nurses volunteer to be at the camp 24 hours a day. “Each camper brings a form from his/her physician advising the medical staff of any restrictions or precautions” stated the website.

For many who volunteer at the camp, cancer has affected them on a personal level. “My mom lost a kidney to cancer 20 years ago and my dad passed from pancreatic cancer 10 years ago so my family has gone through fighting cancer, but at camp we don’t focus on the illness,” said Jennings.

“In all of our volunteers we look for adults which can lead with their own actions while having a child like spirit. This ability to have fun is essential to the success of camp. While the companions work directly with the campers, we are always on the lookout for volunteers to fill the positions of RNs, certified lifeguards, photography, and the kitchen,” said Amber Dovel, Volunteer Coordinator at Camp Quality Arkansas.

A unique function of the camp is that for each child a companion is assigned. A companion is a 24/7 reminder of “hope, courage, and happiness, not only during the week of camp, but all year round,” according to the official website.

Passion to volunteer runs deep in those involved with the camp, individuals have their own driving force. “The relationships that have been built between me, the campers, the families, and the other volunteers are the driving force of my continued volunteerism at Camp Quality,” said Dovel.

The 2014 summer session for Camp Quality is scheduled for June 7 through June 13 at Powderfork Campgrounds.

To get involved, the process can be found on the Camp Quality website. All application forms are done electronically.

For more information, visit www.campqualityusa.org/ar or contact Director, Chris Jennings at chris.jennings@campqualityusa.org.

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