Camp Sunshine: Part 1 7/19/07


A few times a year, Jellystone Campground and Resort in Warrens, Wisconsin, turns into a safe haven. A sanctuary
of sorts for children whose lives have been touched by cancer and for their families that bear the heavy burden with
them. It’s called Camp Sunshine. “It started at a resort in Maine over 20 years ago by the owners of that resort
that wanted to provide a resbit for families that had a critically ill child,” says Director Alyssa Harlan.

In 2004, Jellystone became the programs first regional site. Harlan adds, “So that the magic that’s been put
together for Camp Sunshine can reach more families.”

The magic, happens in hundreds of tiny precious moments. Some are filled with laughter, some with tears. Here they
are bound together by a struggle most of us can’t even begin to comprehend. “It’s a really great bonding experience
and for alot of us this is the first time our families got to take vacation, participate in activities as a famly, have
our children play with other children,” says 3 time participant and Onalaska resident Stefani Haar.

Each session brings in anywhere from 25 to 40 families, about 100 children in all. Children like Amber
Dugan. “This is my 4th time here.”

Amber is battling cancer for the second time in her young life and Camp Sunshine offers her a chanc to feel like
everybody else. Not special. Not sick. Just a kid at camp.

“There’s kids here that know what you’re going through and don’t judge you.”

“When her hair starts to fall out you saw that she was sick, but when she’s here, you just see her happy,” says
mother Melissa. Ambers father Jim agrees, “Honestly, when I see her smiling, I don’t think of cancer. I don’t.”

It’s a week full of games and activities, quiet time and group time where friends are made and lives are
changed. “You grow to love these people, ” says Haar, “and when their child relapses it’s a horrible thing. There’s a
child right now who’s probably days away from death and this is the first time they haven’t been at camp with us and to
know that they’re not here because they are waiting for their child to pass away is just horrible to know they’re in so
much pain. You literally start to think of them as family.”

“It’s so comforting to know there’s a place like this to go,” says the Dugans.

And as healing as it is for the children with cancer, wait until you see the good medicine it’s bringing to the rest
of the family.

Next week in our In Search Of report, Jennifer will take a look at the impact the camp is making on the entire
family. Find out just what parents and siblings are taking away from this experience.