Camp Sunrise: a chance to finally fit in for kids with cancer

Swimming, archery, arts and crafts and more all combine for a pretty typical summer camp experience for kids who have had anything but a typical childhood.

"All the people here have been through something similar that you have been through and all the people here are nice and the activities are really fun," Connor Schlude, 8, said. 
 
The 'something similar' the young survivor is talking about is cancer. 
 
"The disease is gone but I'm still going to Johns Hopkins to make sure it doesn't come back.  
 
Everyone at Camp Sunrise has either been diagnosed with or has survived cancer. For kids who are so used to feeling different, they fit in there.
 
"There's not really a word to describe how this feels because it's kind of like somebody finally gets what it's like to go through what you went through and they totally understand how it feels," Kaitlyn Dorman, 13, said.
 
This is her second time at Camp Sunrise.  
 
Steve Mitchell and Marilyn Scalf know that sense of belonging well.
 
They are both cancer survivors, and both started at Camp Sunrise as campers more than 25 years ago.
 
They are part of the all volunteer team that makes all this possible. 
 
Mitchell was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was 18 months old. He was in treatment up until he turned five years old and joined Camp Sunrise a few years later. 
 
"I did know at the age of eight that I was coming to camp and providing hope for kids that were going through treatment. I knew that I was coming to camp and providing the snapshot of what their lives would be when they finished treatment so that was a really interesting thing to know at that age," he told ABC2. 
 
Scalf started at the camp one year later. She had been diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALO, when she was five years old. 
 
"Our camp was founded on the belief that one day survivors would run this camp and survive long enough to do that and so the fact that that is an actualization is incredible," Scalf said. 
 
The unfortunate reality is that not everyone returns year after year. Some get treatment in the Camp Sunrise infirmary, better known as 'The Funny Farm', during their week long stay.
 
There is even a 'Celebration of Life' tree on the camp grounds that was planted in honor of everyone who has passed through Camp Sunrise and in remembrance of the ones who lost their battles. There have been six former campers who died since last year. 
 
This week, though, is about enjoying the now, staying positive and growing.
 
"You're able to find yourself and who you really are," Scalf said. 
 
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