Today’s guest blog comes from Ron Williams, a former camper and current counselor and director at Camp Sunshine.
Every kid should get the opportunity to go to summer camp at some point in their childhood. I do not wish for any child to be in the position to attend Camp Sunshine, but I am truly grateful that I was. You see, to “get in” to Camp Sunshine, one has to satisfy two specific criteria- first you have to be a kid, which is easy enough, but secondly, you must have been diagnosed with cancer. At camp, there are little kids with leukemia, teens with tumors, and a bit of everything in between…some are on active treatment, some are survivors, and some have stopped their therapy. But whatever brought them there, Camp Sunshine holds a special place in the hearts of its campers…and this I know from experience.
I was a 14 year old soccer standout when a nagging pain in my left shin turned out to be osteogenic sarcoma- bone cancer. I spent my first week at camp shortly after the amputation of my leg below the knee and in the middle of my chemo. I was pretty down in the dumps, but camp lifted my spirits and showed me that life could go on, better than usual even. I learned how to water ski on one leg (a real slalom), a skill that ended up earning me a college scholarship for skiing at Georgia College. After college, when skiing competitions were less available, I switched over to cycling, and after a few years of hard training, earned a spot on the US Paralympic Cycling Team in 2000, 2004, and 2008, bringing home a bronze and a silver medal from the games in Athens.
As proud as I am of these achievements, I am more proud of my continued involvement with Camp Sunshine, starting with four years as a camper, and now as a member of the board of directors and as a counselor each summer. I attribute all of the good things in my life, directly or indirectly, to camp…it was there I learned about setbacks, survival, and success. Camp Sunshine made me who I am, and I am forever grateful. Without the encouragement of the counselors, directors, and other campers at Camp Sunshine, my life would have turned out very differently.