Camp Hope lives up to its name

6/20/2014

By Maria Betzold

By Maria Betzold

The Hutchinson News, Kan.

(MCT)

June 16--GREAT BEND — On June 15, 2005, Barbara Livengood spent her birthday undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

But this year, she spent it celebrating with other survivors.

"It was overwhelming to see how many kids are affected by cancer," Livengood said about her first impression of Camp Hope. "It gave me hope."

After treatment and entering remission, Livengood started volunteering at Camp Hope six years ago. Although Livengood did not attend Camp Hope as a camper, she said she became connected with it through another volunteer with whom she works. Sharing a common bond with the campers is rewarding, Livengood said.

"They're just awesome," Livengood said. "We have so much fun and encourage each other."

Kans for Kids Fighting Cancer Foundation sponsored Camp Home after last year, when the American Cancer Society redirected funds. A fire that destroyed Camp Aldrich in Barton County required Camp Hope to relocate to the Barton Community College in Great Bend this week.

Charlie Dixon, volunteer and one of the directors of house parents, said the the common bond with children at camp is motivation to keep returning.

"The payback of seeing them laugh, be normal," Dixon said.

Dixon said the people who made Camp Hope possible this year did a "dynamite" job. Kwik Shop raised more than $46,000 for Camp Hope, and Barton Community College donated resources as well as other organizations that helped piece the camp together.

Livengood agreed.

"The college bent over backwards to accommodate us," she said. "The community helps a lot."

According to volunteers, Camp Hope is designed so that observers would think it an ordinary camp. The kids talk and act the same as any other kid at a summer camp, but prevail is an important word at camp. For Briley Harbert, Camp Hope means an opportunity to reconnect with the friends she has made.

"Everybody is really friendly," Harbert said. "They make you feel like you aren't sick."

According to Barb Keltner, media coordinator for Camp Hope, the camp provides a safe atmosphere for children to see they are not alone in their struggles. She said she wants them to think of themselves as kids having fun during their summer.

"It really becomes like family," Keltner said.

Camp Hope is staffed with a 24-hour medical team and is open to children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old, Keltner said.

The plan is to have Camp Aldrich — the camp's home for about 30 years — open for next summer's camp. Justin McGinnis, volunteer, said Camp Hope is something that just becomes part of your life.

"My whole motto is to help," McGinnis said. "I don't know how I'd take it if I had to miss a year."

McGinnis attended Camp Hope as a camper before becoming a volunteer. He is one of the few people who have been involved with Camp Hope for the 32 years it has been held. According to McGinnnis, the camp adopted its motto, "It's a special place beyond the rainbow," from the American Cancer Society.

"It fits," he said.

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