There is an amazing camp that was born 25 years ago out of a family’s heartbreaking loss. It is called Camp John Marc. Throughout the summer, chronically ill children attend a week long residential camp of indescribably fun activities. Each week hosts a different medical illness such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, cancer, cardiac disease, hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, arthritis, and asthma.
These kids are usually not able to attend a typical summer camp without severely limiting their activities. They often sit on the sidelines and feel left out. At Camp John Marc it is a very different story. No one feels different because all their cabin mates share a similar diagnosis. Not only does everyone fit in, but they experience the fun activities you would expect to do at summer camp. They can enjoy horseback riding, archery, swimming, fishing, crafts, games, zip lining, rock climbing, cooking classes, socials, and much, much more. Children with such debilitating illness are able to participate because of how the camp is equipped and the staff manning it. Doctors, nurses, child life specialists, and counselors are the ones running the activities and interacting with the kids, as well as manning the medical shed.
The following historical information comes from the website <https://www.campjohnmarc.org/history-dev/>.
“In 1984 and ‘85, a passionate and concerned donor assembled child life specialists, doctors, social workers, camping professionals, and community members to determine the value that camping adds to the lives of children living with health challenges.
“By 1987 “Special Camps for Special Kids” was incorporated.
“In 1988 Jan and Marc Myers generously donated 135 acres of land from their Bosque County ranch in honor of their son to become the camp home. Because of their gift, thousands of kids living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area now enjoy the same land that meant so much to their son.
“In 1987, John Marc Myers, a nine year old Dallas boy who enjoyed spending time outdoors – he especially liked spotting deer, turkey and other wildlife at Old Sundown, the family’s Bosque County ranch – died from osteogenic sarcoma, commonly known as bone cancer.”
“As of Summer 2014, Camp John Marc hosts eleven week-long summer camps and over 25 weekend camps during the year.
“On average, camp serves 1,100 kids each summer and 3,000 kids and family members every year with an administrative staff of six, summer staff of 24 and the support of over 1,000 volunteers annually.”
Five of our children have attended the cardiac disease week at Camp John Marc, known as Camp Moss. Our oldest attended for two years and the others from ages 8-16. At age 17, three participated in the youth leader training by serving in the younger camper’s cabins. Each year Camp Moss has been completely funded by generous donors.
How much did my kids enjoy Camp Marc? In January they started watching the mail for their camp application, and once it arrived they kept after me until it was completed and mailed. One of my sons once told me that he was glad he had a heart problem, so he could attend Camp Moss. Nothing took priority over this event. When their week of fun and fellowship ended, they were never ready to come home. They hated growing up and being to old to attend anymore.
But they will go back to camp someday, if not to Camp Moss then to some other special place. It will be their turn to delight in helping other special kids have the time of their life. That’s how the cycle of love and service works.
I can’t find the words to express the great blessing that Camp Moss has been to my children individually and our family as a whole. The words of these campers and their parents will give you a glimpse of the impact that camp has had on them.
Quotes from the website http://www.campjohnmarc.org
“I love camp so much because I feel like I can finally fit in. Everyone is like me and everyone is nice. Everyone helped me and I LOVE IT! I made many new friends and I am so excited that I get to go back.” Rebecca, a CJM Camper
“Camp was a wonderful experience for me, because it gave me the opportunity to meet other kids who are dealing with/or have dealt with similar things that I have dealt with. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to go to camp that I realized how many people have gone through the things that I have gone through in my life.” Madelyn, a former CJM Camper
“I believe that I can best describe the impact that Camp John Marc had for our family in the following way: Some may wonder why we sent our daughter there when she was dying, and when we could have said no so she would have spent that week with us. The answer is rather simple. . . we sent her there to live.” Vicki, a Camp Mom
Quotes from this year’s Camp Moss
“You all are such an unbelievable blessing to all these incredible kids . Their lives can some times be hard but each child knows this camp is for them and love what you allow them to be for this week , just normal camp kids with lots of fun to be had.” a Camp Mom
“Caleb said this year was the BEST!!! He said, it was so awesome to hear SOOOOO many people sing Happy Birthday to him…. he is MISSING all his cabin mates! !! Throughout school it seems his self esteem is so beat down by bullies, ,,,, but when he comes back from camp, he seems so happy! ! THANK YOU ALL!!!”
Here is your call to action. Pick one or more. Do something.
At a minimum, please visit the website http://www.campjohnmarc.org/. Learn more about this wonderful place.
If you have a child with a chronic illness, explore the possibility of him attending a camp designed to care for his needs. Talk to your doctor. Use Google to determine what camps may be near you.
No camps available in your area? Start an effort to create one. It would be a huge undertaking, but there are many wonderful people in your community who are looking for a cause to donate their money and time to. There’s already a plan to follow; it’s been working and improving for 25 years at Camp John Marc.
Donate your time. Find a way to serve kids. It doesn’t have to be a residential camp, or kids with a medical illness. Every child has special needs.
Donate your money. Sponsor a kid at camp. Camp John Marc would certainly put your money to good use, or pick another individual or organization to help.
Now that all our cardiac kids have graduated from Camp Moss, Jeff and I are eligible to volunteer there. Perhaps next year we will go have a week of fun serving these special kids.