The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

July 9, 2014

Camp Dost: Campers add perspective

Perspective in a world of instant gratification is a tough concept to achieve. Being a father to two young children, I can assure you it’s an even tougher concept for kids to grasp. That’s one of the reasons why if you have never attended Camp Dost, a camp for kids with cancer and their siblings, it’s so hard to grasp the perspective they have on life and how to live it.

When Chris Palumbo, 14, Tioga, NY, a three-year Camp Dost veteran, sat down to talk about a recent Rotationplasty operation he had, it was as if he was sitting down at an afternoon tea. A Rotationplasty is no small thing, and in Chris’s case, it involved taking his left ankle and using it for his knee joint.

We all have good and bad days, it’s a part of everyday life, but there’s that perspective word creeping back in. Chris said he was feeling “good” today. Good is such a small word, but in this case, it’s such a big feeling. “I may go in the pool, but I can’t take my prosthesis in with me” said Chris. Some of the other activities Chris said he has done so far this week are archery, the rock wall and the zip line. I will be sure to try and remember Chris and the other campers with their smiling faces the next time I am having a “bad” day.

Camp Dost director Terry Meyer lost a sister to cancer in 1991, but still returned to Camp Dost to be a counselor and now a director. Meyer says what keeps him coming back is “this is a ridiculously amazing place and my best friends in life are from camp.” “It’s cliché and corny to say, but to see what these kids deal with, and even the siblings and what they have to deal with, and how they help each other, it’s such a neat experience to see these kids just get to be kids” Meyer said.  

Meyer is not the only one to return to Camp Dost year after year. A quick look in their parking lot showed license plates from Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois, and others, all volunteer staff who make the camp possible. It takes around 65 volunteers each year to run the camp for the more than 80 children that attend.

Most teenagers don’t show any real desire to hang out with their younger siblings if they are more than a couple of years apart. That’s another thing which makes Camp Dost a bit different. Cancer patients are allowed to bring their siblings, younger or older, with them to camp, and most are more than happy to share the experience. Aubrey Persing, 15, Northumberland County, attends Camp Dost with her younger brother, Aaron, 6, who is dealing with cancer. “It’s hard being a sibling of someone with cancer, but I have to live with it. He’s my best friend, we do everything together” says Persing. Not only does her brother, Aaron, have friends at camp but so does Aubrey, “it’s kind of relaxing because I can talk to them about the same things my brother went through.”

The theme at Camp Dost this week is Dr. Suess Goes to Camp and the staff took that to heart by implementing a couple of new activities, including a science kitchen and a collaborative art project. In the science kitchen kids got to learn how to make elephant toothpaste, homemade ice cream, volcanoes, and other fun projects. With the art project, campers had to think of a positive message, then spray paint out of a syringe onto a canvass, and anyone who agreed with the thought could spread out the paint on the canvass with their hands or brushes.  

Life is not always fair. Life is sometimes very, very hard. With that in mind, though, be sure to remember the kids at Camp Dost and smile a bit more, because how could you not after meeting them?

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