By Megan Tilk
St. Joseph News-Press
Living with cancer can seem like a full-time job. But for some kids, Camp Quality is a vacation free from doctors, treatments and worries, where eating numerous hot dogs and spraying your hair green are just a few of the fun options to enjoy.
Monday marked the first full day of activities for campers at Camp Quality, a nonprofit camp for children with cancer. Located at Camp Farwesta, more than 100 campers and their volunteer "companions" enjoy numerous activities during their stay. This year's theme is MASH: Make A Smile Happen.
Beginning at 8 a.m., campers can choose a variety of activities offered after breakfast, ranging from swimming, fishing, paddle boating and canoeing to crafts, hairstyling and horseback riding. Afternoons consist of water activities and special guests, such as magicians and musicians. Older campers can enjoy dances in the evenings.
Tyra, a 13-year camping veteran, has many favorite activities and memories from Camp Quality. In most cases, last names of campers and volunteers were not disclosed.
"Today in crafts, I made a foam finger to use at the donkey baseball game," she said.
Her companion, Ricci, describes donkey baseball.
"It's new this year and we're pretty excited about it. I heard that local law enforcement will be riding on donkeys," Ricci said.
Companions - the volunteers who mentor the children at camp - are a big factor in the return of campers. For some, this summer may be their first time volunteering, but others have had many years at Camp Quality.
Beth, a 10-year companion veteran, loves the experience of Camp Quality.
"I was companion to one girl for six years. Camp Quality is just a really good experience. It caters to each and every child to just make sure they have a really good experience," she said.
"If you have the opportunity to do something like this, you should definitely do it," she added.
Although the weather may not be favorable at times to Camp Quality, volunteers stay prepared, said volunteer Adam Nutting.
"When it comes to weather, nothing will shut us down. If it's heat, all cabins are air-conditioned and we keep the campers hydrated. We also have two shelters we can use in case of a tornado or severe thunderstorm. We work closely with local law enforcement and usually have a 45-minute heads up about the weather," he said.
First-year camper Cheyenne already plans to return next year.
"When I was in treatment, my doctor told me about camp. It sounded like a really good way to make friends. Already, I really like my companion, canoeing and horseback riding," she said.