This past weekend I got to enjoy going to Camp Star Trails for the sixth time in my short life, the camp for children with cancer and their siblings. It has been two years since I got to go, and that made it so much more wonderful to attend this year.
It started well- basketball with fellow counselors and a subsequent collision head to head with one of my fellow players that left a considerable gash just off my left eye that really needed stitches but had to settle without. And more basketball the next morning. And lots of good hanging out with counselors I hadn’t seen in a long time.
And then there was the kids. To be around kids during a camp is an awesome experience, and oft made better with nicknames. These kids, with my given nicknames- O-Dog, Z-Money, Q, Papa, Tony, Hambone, Ketch, Schmowzow, Bacon and Poncho. Awesome kids. These are the kind of kids that love fart jokes as 11 year olds. They love squashing bugs. They love playing dodgeball and throwing bals at one another. They loved playing Connect 4 and Headbanz (guessing what your card identifies you as- I am a Cat, I am Ketchup…). These kids were great.
So great that when asked for a Cabin activity to pick, given options like Sports, High Ropes, Zipline, Nature, Canoeing, Horses, Archery…well you get the point, they choose instead Beauty Spa! And they loved it- they even rallied at the dinner table on Sunday night, chanting “Beauty Spa” over and over again. Well, we went, and when we went, they eagerly painted one another’s nails, sang chick flic songs, and enjoyed a tea party while learning to extend their pinkies with class. It was incredible! It was so cute! The kids even banded together to paint the counselors nails, purple with glitter and candy apple red for me. What a precious experience! Those kids were my kind of kids for sure! Proud to be boys, not afraid to be sensitive!!!
But let me tell you what camp is really about. While waiting in line for dinner with one kid, I asked what it was like for him to be the sibling and have his brother go through his leukemia (and by the way was finishing his last treatment of chemo). He answered me very quickly without much thought: “lonely”. It is truly heartbreaking. Why lonely? Mom’s at the hospital, Dad must work, brother is sick sequestered at the hospital. He must be at a relative’s house the whole year of treatment. That is truly lonely. Lost a playmate, lost a mother (for the time being), lost a father (for the time being). Lost a family. That is heartbreaking. But I got an opportunity to tell him that that I was sorry to hear that and that that is hard. And I got to show him that he is valuable by telling him that he is an incredible big brother who has a lot of love. It is these opportunities that make going to Camp Star Trails a beyond incredible experience, an experience in which I can reach out to not only sick kids but also to their siblings, letting them know that they are loved and valuable and that someone cares for them, that someone is willing to play with them, and that someone is willing to laugh with them, and that someone is willing to be hurt with them. That’s a priceless opportunity, a true ministry for me.