We got back from Camp Periwinkle (a camp for childhood cancer patients and their siblings) on Saturday afternoon and have spent most of the time since recovering. I’ve been going to Camp every summer since 1990, which is possible since it’s only a week long.
The underlying philosophy of camp is selflessness. All the counselors and staff are volunteers, the kids go for free, everything there is donated. For one week, and sometimes for the last time, the kids at camp get to feel normal, and they get to have fun, and they have the time of their lives.
The smiles and the laughter at Camp Periwinkle are things that keep those of us who’ve been doing it for so long coming back year after year.
It’s typically one of the high points of any given year. It’s a chance to spend a week living in a perfect world, a world of patience, selflessness, love, compassion, understanding. It’s a chance to see kids and adults truly be their best selves. Where else can you see kids in a relay race cheering on the kid in a wheelchair who will cost them the race, yet no one cares about who wins or loses? Where else can you see adults put aside every aspect of their own comfort and convenience so that kids will feel special?
I’ve never been anywhere or done anything else that focuses what life should be about and how we should interact with one another more clearly than Camp Periwinkle. It’s a place where no expense is spared, no opportunity missed, to make kids whose lives are a daily struggle feel special, feel normal. It teaches kids that they can do what no one thinks they can. It helps them survive.
In the past seventeen years, I’ve seen kids laugh, smile, dance, and play who might never otherwise have found a place to do those things. I’ve watched kids crawl out of wheelchairs to climb a wall on the ropes course. I’ve seen kids fresh from brain surgery lean on their crutches and dance.
It’s a powerful place and it changes a person’s way of thinking. It reminds me of how special life is, how lucky I am, how important it is to work everday to make the world a better place for everyone.
It’s a chance to see what life could be like in a world ruled by love, where nobody ever wanted for anything.
Did I say it is a perfect world?
* * *
Note: This was republished as a guest editorial in the Nov/Dec 2006 Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing under the title “A Perfect World.”