American Cancer Society reaches out to stricken kids


Beth Carmichael and her mother from Lake City had lunch while waiting for the bus to take Beth to ROCK Camp in Eustis.

SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 3:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 12:00 a.m.
Run, jump, play. Summers with no worries.
For children with cancer that is not always the case. But for one week a group of children from North Central Florida who have cancer were given the chance to be normal kids.
Fourteen children from Alachua and surrounding counties, who have endured the medical trials and tribulations of surviving cancer, went for a week to the American Cancer Society's. ROCK (Reaching Out to Cancer Kids) Camp June 2. Another group of 130 campers from South Florida will set off for camp this month.
The American Cancer Society and the campers' families bade the children goodbye as they boarded the bus for fun, camaraderie and adventure at Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis where ROCK Camp is located.
The children and their families came to the American Cancer Society's Winn Dixie Hope Lodge on SW 16th Street in Gainesville to eat pizza (donated by Papa John's) and brownies, color, paint T-shirts and have fun while they waited for the bus to pick up the campers.
"At first I was really excited for him, but then I started to think about him being gone for a whole week and how much I would miss him," said Donna J. Holmes of Lake City, mother of Andrew Holmes.
"Now I see how excited he is to go." Andrew, 7, has acute lymphoblastic leukemia and had just finished treatment. This was his first time attending camp and he said he didn't think he would want to come back home afterward. "I am going to go fishing and have fun," Andrew said as he headed off.
After a week of fun, he got off the bus in the parking lot of the American Cancer Society, his mother waiting for him with open arms. Andrew - with his arms crossed and a frown on his face - marched right past her.
"I was a little bit crushed," she said. "He didn't want to come home, but I am glad he had so much fun."
Andrew, along with all the other children, spent a week at the 232-acre camp near Orlando which encompasses an extensive medical center, medical professionals including pediatric oncologists, air-conditioned cabins and dining hall, arts and crafts center, indoor recreation center, boathouse and docks, horseback riding trails and a heated pool. It's a sharp contrast to the sterile, stressful medical environment these children have to face in a hospital.
Over Labor Day Weekend, 100 kids with cancer and their families will set off for a weekend retreat in Orlando, courtesy of the American Cancer Society's Families ROCK Weekend. They'll stay Friday and Saturday nights at a hotel, enjoy festive meals together and interactive workshops, then spend Sunday at the Disney theme park of their choice.
For more information about the ROCK programs or other programs and services of the American Cancer Society, call 1-800-ACS-2345.

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