Registration was underway. Name. Address. Phone. Room assignment. More lines to be filled out on an inanimate, impersonal form. But there before me stood not line items but people. A group came forward. Children gathered around a Mommy like frisky kittens tumbling over themselves trying to find a place. But the Mommy? The center. Their source of sunshine. Their source of life. The Mommy stood there, her skin translucent. So weak. So helpless. While her children clamored only for the normal requests of childhood, Sara was engaged in a battle for her life. A monster named Cancer had robbed her children of a nurturing Mommy. To admire a drawing, to kiss away a boo-boo…oh, how she longed to perform these motherly privileges once again. But she couldn’t. She felt like a shaky plant that will collapse completely unless surrounded by sturdy props. That’s why she registered in Ezer Mizion’s Summer Camp for Families dealing with Cancer. Its staff and volunteers would be the props to hold her up while she gave her children a much-needed dose of “Mommy”.
The summer camps are a boon to families that have hardly seen each other for weeks at a time. Family interaction is at a minimum with Mommy either as the patient or caretaker spending so much time at the hospital. Even when at home, the fear and terror for the future, the pressure of decision-making all serve to preclude normal nurturing. The camp enables the family structure to function normally in an upbeat atmosphere pervaded by fun and happiness. Everything they could possibly need or want is available. Volunteers assist in removing the burden from the parents, allowing them to save their strength for the hug, the smile …things only a Mommy can give.
When a plant is propped, it has strength to expand. That explained the immense cooler that one mother lugged with her, even though everything- –that means every possible thing— is provided. “I know we don’t really need this,” she answered when questioned. “But it contains my children’s favorite puddings. I want to be the one to give it to them. A pudding coming from Mommy is different.”
And the activities? The activities are fantastic, ranging from a trip to a waterpark to a visit from a famous entertainer, from magic shows to jeeping trips, from helicopter rides to joyful dancing and culminating in the famous Balloon Event when hundreds of campers, at the count of Zero, send their colorful balloons soaring heavenward, accompanied by their fervent prayers. It’s a vacation from scary needles and scary thoughts…a time for families to become re-acquainted in an atmosphere of fun…fun…fun. It’s a time to strengthen the spirit in its battle for life itself.
For these desperate families, camp is a lifeline but, unfortunately, not all can be accommodated. New guidelines had to be instituted. Only those currently undergoing treatment and who had not attended in previous years were permitted to join. And so I was surprised to see among the crowd a woman who I know had been there the year before. The story, when I heard it, was chilling. Last year, the woman had been invited to join the camp due to her husband’s illness. There was no happy ending for this family. Now they were without their Abba. This year they were invited to join again as the three-year-old boy is undergoing chemo.
Help sponsor a family so each answer can be a welcoming “Yes!”