More than thirty years ago, Camp Goodtimes was born, a weeklong camp for children affected by cancer and their siblings. Its purpose is to help kids carve a chunk out of their hospital- and cancer-filled life to just be kids. Completely free of charge to the family, survivors and their siblings get to simply have a blast. From cruises provided by Argosy, to a carnival where Gene Juarez stylists give you a crazy hairdo, ending with a whipped cream fight, if you could handle smelling like dairy for a couple of days … this has been a part of my life going on eight years now, and it is most definitely the silver lining on the cancer cloud.
Some background for you: My younger brother Jack was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, which is a type of brain cancer that came from a walnut-sized tumor in his brain at the age of 7. He battled cancer, was in remission for about a year, and then relapsed, causing his death at age 10. When my brother was a few months into remission, his oncologist talked to my parents about Camp Goodtimes, and within the blink of an eye we were getting off the ferry on Vashon Island, on our way to our first year of camp, and it changed my life forever.
I saw God every place I looked. The staff volunteered their time and took their sick days to be there to make sure I was given the attention I wasn’t getting at home because my brother was sick. The camp was riddled with people touched by cancer in one way or another, yet everyone was happy and having the best time of their lives. Talk of treatment, living in hospitals, losing hair—it all became background noise. God opened a door with this camp. I see God illuminating the wonderful people He has created and letting the darkness of cancer fall away.
To give a little perspective of just how much I love and adore this place, I’ll tell you something. My brother Jack passed away on June 7, 2009. What would only be my second year of camp started on June 17, 2009. I went to camp just ten days after cancer had taken my Jackson’s life, and it was the best thing I could have done for myself. Everyone who had met me there the year before was waiting for me with open arms, and even better, they all knew just exactly what I was going through. There has only been a select few times where I felt God in almost a paranormal kind of way, and that week was one of those times. I didn’t think I’d be able to go, but I just couldn’t get it out of my head that I needed to go. To this day, I don’t know how I would have grieved my brother’s passing without that week of camp, with God bringing me to just the right people.
Now I have climbed the ranks within camp and have just recently finished my first year on staff at Camp Goodtimes. I truly and wholeheartedly know that God is completely in that camp, and that now I get to be one of the people with open arms and a common life story. Not only this, but I get to stay connected to my brother even though I can’t be with him in this lifetime anymore. I see God in every camper, every staff member, and in the camp itself. I see God working to keep me close to Jack, and to keep me close to the people who helped me through the hardest time in my life. I love Camp Goodtimes, and I thank God it exists every day.