Photo of campers roasting marshmallows over a fire
Photo by Josh Campbell on Unsplash

When I think of heaven I think of life lived with love, abundance, caring, empathy, and sharing, a place where family is inclusive, not exclusive. If there is a piece of heaven on earth it must be represented in Camp Friendship, a camp for children afflicted with cancer. Some of the kids are terminal but all are spiritually lifted to a heavenly karma.  

A person can have an out-of-body experience by merely walking the spiritually sacred grounds. I have felt the presence of campers past, an overwhelming aura of peace that encompassed my body from head to toe. Walking in the footsteps of those who are dealing with severities that I can only imagine opened my mind to exploring and implementing means and ways of giving unconditionally, anything and everything physically, mentally, and spiritually possible.  

Before I was invited to lend a helping hand through efforts of the Rockville Kiwanis Club, I knew nothing about Camp Friendship. I had heard of places where children suffering from cancer could enjoy happy outings with their parents and loved ones, but I thought only a select few were eligible. That is how isolated I was, aware only of what directly effected and affected my life.  

Now I know that there is a spirit within each of us that can be released from its imposed prison, in my case, a self-imposed prison. This spirit overwhelmed me with empathy, especially now, with my mother being diagnosed with active cancer of the breast and lymph nodes.  

Through my work I realized I had managed to desensitize my inner spirit of unconditional love, which manifests itself in praying not only for cancer patients but for all terminal patients and for the people who love and help them, including families, nurses, doctors, caregivers, camp counselors, administrators, lobbyists, scientists, and world leaders. I’ve been reminded as I have helped out at Camp Friendship raking, boat-washing, pruning, painting, and fellowshipping that we are family, united in caring and sharing to enhance other souls on this heavenly oasis.  

Camp Friendship creates a haven for children with cancer and their families in the mid-Atlantic area, providing a safe place for them to play and enjoy themselves among their peers.  

The camp provides year-round recreational and support programs free of charge. Camp Friendship is run by the Carol Jean Cancer Foundation (CJCF), which has a mission to improve the quality of life for children with cancer and their families throughout Maryland, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia. Many area pediatric hospitals refer their families to the foundation, which has served approximately 8,800 people since 1990.  

CJCF has one paid employee, Beverly E. Gough, president and founder, who is paid $10,000 annually. The majority of volunteers give their time starting in the early spring through late fall, with an emphasis during the summer programs. Various duties involve 200-300 people. There is a core group of 12-15 year-round volunteers who give 15-20 hours a month, depending on activities.  

A major fundraiser of Camp Friendship is the camper sponsorship program. Since the camp is offered free of charge, the program raises donations to cover the costs. I pray that our readers will help any way they can, including prayers for all the families involved.  

For more information, please see the website, www.cjcfkids.org and tell Mrs. Beverly that Sean-Christopher Riley referred you from the Street Sense family.  

Sean, a Street Sense vendor, is also a Certified Nursing Assistant and Geriatric Nursing Assistant who is now studying physical therapy at Montgomery College. He currently lives at Chase Partnership, a program that provides housing for homeless individuals in Rockville, MD. He will be serving as a volunteer at Camp Friendship this summer