Georgia Magazine - July 2017 - 18
As a nurse working with young
cancer patients, Jordan saw the impact
that chronic and life-threatening illnesses had on children's psychological
and social development.
"While researching for my thesis at the Emory School of Nursing,
I visited a camp for kids with cystic
fibrosis and saw what a difference it
made," Jordan says. She saw healing
that medicine couldn't provide and
began planning a camp for children
with cancer. Camp Sunshine, mycamp
sunshine.com, started at Camp High
Harbor in the North Georgia mountains in 1982. In the first year, there
were 44 campers.
Its impact grows larger every year.
"Camp gives children an opportunity to just be kids, to have fun and
step outside the lines safely, to challenge themselves and to connect with
a community that completely understands them," Jordan says. "It allows
kids to let their guard down, even
when they don't realize it's up."
One image from an early camp
still moves her. Coming down to the
dock of the lake, she saw an assortment of prosthetic legs and an arm
and a pile of wigs. The campers, many
of them bald, were busy swimming,
splashing and laughing in the lake.
Children with cancer can
feel isolated and different,
of my sister without this group.
We're all so lucky to have this
Paige Smith, camp manager,
first came to a sibling camp at
Camp Twin Lakes in 2000. Her
sister had been diagnosed with
bone cancer when she was in
seventh grade and Paige was in
"My sister, Stephanie, went
to Camp Sunshine for five years
built. A large part of that community
before she passed away. She had so
are the volunteer counselors who
much fun," Smith says. "We dropped
come back year after year with each
her off in a wig the first time. When
camp. One of those is Emily Garner,
we picked her up, she had sparkles
a sixth-grade teacher at Crabapple
on her bald head, and the wig was
Middle School in Roswell, who has
nowhere to be found. Afterward she
been a camper or volunteer at Camp
would talk to newly diagnosed kids
Sunshine for 23 years.
at clinic and tell them about camp."
Diagnosed with retinoblastoma
Smith trained to become a
when she was 9 months old, Garner
counselor and joined the Camp Twin
went through radiation treatments
that left her blind in one eye and had Lakes staff after college. She likes
that she is constantly learning and
multiple reconstructive surgeries.
"My face was asymmetrical, and
"Outside camp, kids hear they
kids were mean at school. After
[I lost] a friend to cancer, my oncolo- can't do [this or] that because they
have XYZ [disease or disability]. Our
gist said I needed to go to camp,"
job is to figure out a way to
make a way," she says.
She went at 13 and found a
She loves that parents
home. "I wasn't self-conscious there. I
see a change in their kids
learned that, although I'd had a hard
life, there is always someone who
"They can dose their
has it harder. There's always a way
own insulin, clean up after
to help, and you have strengths that
themselves or swim with one
leg. We have a 'can-do' attitude
Now a counselor, she loves seehere," Smith says. "I'm sorry that
ing older campers befriend younger
my sister had to go through
ones. "Kids with brain tumors don't
have a big peer group," she says, "but what she did, but I feel like she
at camp they make friends for life. My would be proud of me. I can't
proudest moment is seeing kids cheer imagine a more fulfilling job."
on their peers."
She belongs to a group of five
Nurse practitioner Dorothy
counselors who all started as campers
and support one another year-round. Jordan founded Camp Sunshine
10 years before the need for
"We're the loudest, craziest
Camp Twin Lakes, a facility
counselors. I spend that week living
for kids with serious illnesses,
on Diet Coke and cheese balls, and
Bicycles are available for campers to enjoy, either
disabilities and life challenges,
I come home without a voice, but I
on the road or on nature trails.
wouldn't have gotten through the loss became apparent.
COURTESY CAMP TWIN LAKES
Camp experiences, including sports
activities, are customized for each
group of campers.
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org