Our Voice: Camp Goodtimes East fills a need for kids with cancer; worth every penny

August 21, 2013 

Camp Goodtimes 2013

August 10, 2013 - Citlali Lopez of Pasco is welcomed earlier this week to Camp Goodtimes East by members of the volunteer staff. The American Cancer Society is pulling its funding for the camp for children who've been diagnosed with cancer.

COURTESY SAMANTHA HOUSEMAN

The American Cancer Society is re-evaluating how it manages its money and redistributing its resources into finding a cure for cancer.

We can't fault them for that.

But there's always some fallout when pockets of money are shuffled.

One of the groups coming up short is Camp Goodtimes East in Post Falls, Idaho.

It will be a day worthy of celebration when cancer is cured, especially the cancers that strike children. It's sad when someone's last days are given to the disease after they have lived a full and long life. It is unthinkable when that happens to a young person.

But that day is not yet.

Cancer is still with us. And with our children.

Since we don't have the cure yet, it is a worthy effort to make their lives richer in whatever ways we can.

Camp Goodtimes East is the best week of the year for 139 kids. It's not just a chance to enjoy the outdoors, but also a chance to just be a kid instead of the kid with cancer. This year, six of those campers were from the Mid-Columbia.

About that many adults from our community volunteer at the camp as well, including the spouses of two of our editorial board members. We mention this for full disclosure.

Some of the campers are in remission. Some are ill. Some are a friend or sibling of a patient.

All of them love camp.

The American Cancer Society is trying to find another sponsor to run the camp. They, too, don't want to see this experience taken away and don't want to leave the kids hanging.

It should be doable.

The camp's annual budget is $170,000. Even in tough times that's an affordable price tag for a week of camp that is free to the campers.

It would be much more costly if not for the 85 volunteers. This includes medical personnel from Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. The camp needs a full medical staff to be able to care for sick kids.

It is a specialized event; one that requires more than a few tents set up in the trees. Besides giving kids a chance to spend some time outdoors, engaged in archery, fishing, boating and other summer camp activities, Camp Goodtimes East brings together children who inspire and empathize with their peers.

It gives them a camaraderie that extends beyond a week of making new friends.

We expect someone will step up to fund the program -- even if it is scaled back.

The motto for the camp is "Until there's a cure, there's a camp."

When there is a cure, kids with cancer can go to one of the many other camps available in the summer. They can devote their time to just being a kid, rather than a patient.

Finding a cure for cancer would be a great thing that may or may not happen in the lifetime of these children. Sending a kid to camp is also a great thing. And that is totally within our control.

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