Before i leave summer alone, i have to mention one week that got my gears turning. It was a river trip exclusively for kids either currently battling or who have survived the nightmare of cancer. It's an awesome program called River Discovery. There are opportunities for both teenagers and adults and it's my understanding, save for an application fee, it's free for the participants.
It turned out to be my last trip and it was a poignant end to the summer. (Also great because i wasn't trip leader, so i could just sit back and be a dumb river guide again.) I'd heard stories about last year's River Discovery trip having open port-a-caths and chemo in camp and that sort of thing, so i wasn't sure i'd have the emotional fortitude to bear it. I lost one of my good friends, Susie at 9 to leukemia. Just the word 'cancer' sits like an infected lead ball in my stomach. I'm a pretty big sissy about it.
It's such a cool program. A few of these kids have been the last couple or three summers, and they freakin love it. I was filled with admiration watching them scramble on rocks and hike around and even do some rappelling in camp despite a number of them having internal prosthetics and braces, and some being generally frail.
But most of all, they were just regular kids. There were baby-faced hand-holding romances and everything else you could expect with 13 teenagers involved with anything. We had great support from volunteers that had backgrounds in varying, complementary fields including an oncologist who turned out to be a riot.
They were all very tolerant of my shenanigans and great sports when i duped them with some good, old-fashioned river guide trickery.
There were games and skits and water fights and guitars and songs and campfires and all that awesome hokey river camp shiznit. We all cried when we realized the last night had crept up on us. It was a helluva privilege to share a week on the river with this bunch of kids that confronted fears and challenges with practiced pluck and determination. We laughed a lot.
All week all i could think was, how cool if there was a program like to accommodate people with all sorts of chronic illnesses? With a well trained, vigilant crew, maybe even adults and kids with seizures could go on these trips. Sure, we might have to enforce a strict buddy system and pass out helmets as soon as we hit camp, but holy crap i'd love to make it happen.
Seriously, though, if you know of anyone with the misfortune of a cancer diagnosis that could benefit from one of these river trips, check out the River Discovery website.
Note: I've mixed in pictures of trips with teenagers from throughout the summer for the sake of preserving medical privacy