As 2023 comes to an end, I’m filled with gratitude for supporters like you and our Roundup River Ranch community.
Camp is filled with many firsts. First time fishing, first time eating something different, first time making a best friend… 2023 was a year of many firsts for me too. I am overflowing with gratitude for this inspiring Roundup River Ranch community. One of the most joy-filled experiences I had was volunteering as a camp counselor, discovering new friendships, trying new things, and celebrating extraordinary moments with the Willow Cabin!
During session orientation, all of the volunteers were told of their specific campers’ medical needs and it was honestly overwhelming. A sample of what we learned included:
- “Chronic fatigue may need to take naps. Needs extra fluids. Anxiety.
- “Has tremors that look seizure like. Needs encouragement to eat. Anxiety.”
- “Chronic nausea and vomiting, fatigue, suspected focal seizures. Distressed.”
The importance of our medical volunteers and behavioral health manager became instantly clear and enormously comforting. I witnessed first-hand that this is a safe space for campers to express their emotions, make friendships, and process the hard pieces of life with peers on similar life journeys. The expertise on our team – both staff and volunteers – eased jitters and created a community of strength and support.
Campers are so much more than their diagnosis that bring them to camp –in incredible ways. More than half of our campers have been diagnosed with a mental or behavioral health diagnosis along with their primary medical diagnosis. Our programs are developed to care for the whole child – helping them feel connected, manage their emotions, and give them tools to be more resilient. And I experienced the joys of that intentional programming right alongside the campers and counselors of the Willow Cabin!
Your support ensures our campers experience a sense of community, which positively impacts their overall well-being. Your donation today offers more campers a chance to experience this life-changing gift at zero cost. We hope you will consider giving before the end of year, so more families with serious illnesses can discover the healing power of community, belonging, and hope.
Sarah P. Johnson
President & CEO
Willow Cabin Counselor
P.S. Give today and your gift will be matched up to $200,000, thanks to the Frechette Family Foundation. You’ll be doubling the camper connections that change lives! Colorado residents who donate to Roundup River Ranch may be eligible to receive up to a 50% tax credit through the Colorado Child Care Contribution Tax Credit.
P.P.S. In the process of helping our campers experience the joys of camp, I found myself growing and learning alongside them. Here are a few of the lessons this year’s Summer Camp experience taught me.
Ask a lot of questions.
Our Candle Chats were another memorable moment. By asking what seem like silly questions (would you rather have the ability to time travel or teleport) we were able to share and reflect on some deep moments. One camper, for instance, shared that she would elect to time travel to see her parents’ reaction to her diagnosis. By asking questions, we give these children the space to have tough conversations about the reality of their world. But we also help them realize they can just be kids and have a Summer Camp experience, regardless of limitations.
Enjoy the experience.
At camp we have a “Book of Firsts” that memorializes firsts that happen at camp. One camper got to experience boating, archery, ziplining, and sleeping away from home all for the first time. Activities like these allow our campers to set goals and attain them, regardless of obstacles. Watching our campers gain confidence and cheer one another on was inspiring. It helped me remember that there is always opportunity for growth and resilience if you’re just ready to embrace to experience.
Being away from your family for so long can be nerve-wracking for any child. But at camp, campers learn how to do things on their own and that instills a sense of pride. Camp also allows them to build courage by trying new things and stepping outside their comfort zones. By taking a leap of faith, and getting a little silly and messy along the way, you could end up having an amazing experience filled with immense joy and opportunity.
Remember the magic in ordinary things.
Our ultimate goal is for illnesses to take a backseat to our campers just being kids. We want to be a place where our campers can just be themselves, where they are seen, heard, and understood. For me, the ordinary moments were some of the most extraordinary. We branded Roundup River Ranch logos onto wood cookies and the campers and counselors signed the other side, among laughter and tears. We sang Taylor Swift songs, canoed in the lake and spent far too long saying goodbye.
I already know the power Summer Camp has on these kids, but it really hit home when I got to share my experiences and reflections with one of the camper’s dads. It was there I realized, through tears, that we got to be the creators of everyday magic for incredible kids – and that is such a privilege and responsibility that I can never take for granted.
This summer forever left its mark through the unbelievable volunteers and the amazing campers. I got to see the magic of thoughtful, creative, passionate, wise, outgoing, friendly children living their lives fully.