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The first time a child ever spends a night away from home can be a traumatic experience. So when 6-year-old Benjamin Adams, son of West’s Jeff and Holly Adams, arrived at Camp Victory in Millville, Pa., to participate in the week-long Camp Dost for children with cancer, Jeff and Holly were certain they’d be receiving a call that very night.
“We said a tearful good bye and assumed he’d be calling homesick,” said Jeff with a chuckle. “But we never heard a word.”
Three years before, Benjamin had been diagnosed with leukemia. Thanks to the help of the doctors and nurses at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Ben responded well to treatment and has been declared disease free. He also had a chance to experience Camp Victory.
“Ben’s doctor and nurse, who volunteer in the medical shed at Camp Victory, told us about it. Ben was a little apprehensive but we talked him into going,” Jeff said. “From the moment we arrived and met the counselors and the doctors who were volunteering to ensure that the children were medically well cared for, we knew he was in good hands. And he and his brother had an absolute blast.”
When the rest of the family returned to collect him a week later, Benjamin was still having so much fun, that he was nowhere to be found.
Camp Dost is one of the many week-long camps hosted by Camp Victory each summer. A program of the Ronald McDonald House of Danville, Pa., Camp Dost provides children with cancer and their siblings a camping experience filled with fun, games and activities designed to develop positive self-image, independence and self-assurance. A chance to meet new friends, Camp Dost emphasizes the joys of childhood and not the struggles associated with cancer.
“It is sometimes easy for people to forget that cancer affects a whole family, not just the patient, so it’s wonderful that Ben was able to bring a sibling with him to experience the camp. It’s really a place that lets kids know they’re not alone, they’re not the only ones with this disease and there are other kids like them,” said Jeff. “They can have fun and simply be children.”
Since his first camping experience where he was accompanied by his brother, Ben has been excited to return to Camp Victory. Last year, he enjoyed his second summer camp in the company of his sister and friends, and he’s already counting the days until he can return again this July.
Noted Holly, “I am absolutely in awe of the whole program. Watching the slideshow of photos during the closing ceremony, I saw not only my kids, but all the others, smiling in a way that radiates from the bottom of their toes and shines through their eyes. Many of these children not only did not think that they would or could do activities like climbing, swimming or horseback riding, but they didn’t know if they would live long enough to try! We watched counselors who so gave of themselves to care and share with these kids in a way that some family members can’t even conjure up the energy to do because they are so beat down with the disease. I saw the staff who in just a few days, grew to love yet another group of children from all walks of life sharing a common bond of cancer and chemo, all together in one room glowing.”
“As a parent, you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can for your kids,” said Jeff. “Camp Victory is really phenomenal. It’s hard to describe how great a place it is and how fortunate we are to be able to participate in Camp Dost. It’s a place that enables these children to have this experience. It’s humbling and it makes you ask yourself what more you can do.”
Said Holly, “Camp Dost isn’t just a summer camp for kids with cancer. It’s a moment in time that allows them to realize that they can follow their dreams in spite of it all.”