Camp Sunshine 2012
As the time approached for our second biannual DC Outreach Camp Sunshine symposium, we were filled with excitement – knowing how successful our 2010 session was – but also some apprehension: could the 2012 edition possibly live up to what we experienced two years ago? The answer was a resounding YES! Camp Sunshine 2012 was every bit as wonderful and magical. Perhaps even more so, as repeat attendees had much higher expectations this time around. In addition, we had almost 50% more families this time, half of whom were new this year, and some of whom traveled literally halfway around the world to be there.
The DC patients themselves who were in attendance represented a broad spectrum. Ages from 4 to 54. Some affected severely, others less so. Some who knew their mutation, some who did not. Some who had undergone bone marrow transplants. Some families with success stories, and some who had tragically lost loved ones. But almost everyone met someone else whose situation they could relate to.
Feedback from attendees overwhelmingly cited three things that made the event so special for them: the information received from our expert speakers; the willingness of our medical advisors to spend one-on-one time with individual families; and above all, the opportunity to meet so many other DC families and share stories and experiences with them.
As with our previous camp outing, everything was organized extremely well and ran very smoothly. The program was heavily front-loaded with science and information, and the doctors did not disappoint. Their lectures were highly informative, and they provided attendees with ample opportunity to ask questions, both in open sessions and in private interviews. In addition to donating their time, most of these professionals even paid their own way to be there for us, and some traveled coast to coast to participate.
Sprinkled in with the information, however, was time for us to bond and unwind – through psycho-social sessions, “Super Dooper Blooper” games where teams competed in silly activities for good-natured bragging rights, a costume party, talent show, karaoke night, zumba, and yoga, among other things. There was even some free time to enjoy the camp’s other facilities, like paddle boats, bocce ball, mini golf, or Frisbee golf. A local masseuse donated her time on two different days for adults to enjoy massages. And of course, the children had a complete agenda of their own, with swimming, outdoor activities, games, arts and crafts, and other entertainment, when not with the grown-ups. One of the most popular events of the week was a kids-versus-adults game of “Nuke ‘em” – a derivative of volleyball – that started in the afternoon and resumed under the lights at 9pm!
Any summary of our camp week would be grossly incomplete without a major shout-out to Camp Sunshine’s amazing volunteers. They are the ones who make the experience extra-special. Taking care of the kids so the adults could concentrate on the information and have some “me time.” Getting up at 5am to shuttle attendees to/from the airport. Working 13-hour days, sometimes with only an hour break. Giving up their vacation time, or taking time off from their college studies, to be there for us. Some of the volunteers were with us in 2010 and specifically requested to be with us again this year! It is astounding how quickly we and our children become attached to them.
Ultimately, Camp Sunshine was a time for all of us to come together as a family. To share triumphs and sorrows, laughter and tears. But most importantly, for hope, and the knowledge that we really are not alone.
--Nancy Cornelius, former DCO President