Why I keep going back to a magical place I call Camp


I sit at my computer with my heart pounding and hands shaking, as I wait for the digital clock to turn to the magical number that marks the opening of online camp registration for counselors. You see, it’s like The Hunger Games, and sometimes, within 30 seconds, all counselor spots get filled.

I make a point to block out my schedule a year in advance, so I’m able to make coming to Family Camp a priority. Why, you ask? Because of the subtle and changing expressions you wear on your face throughout the weekend, Dear Parents…it’s your eyes that are insight to your unsaid thoughts, and the rawness of the in-between moments that reveal your true feelings.

I see your tired eyes as you arrive to camp, with a little bit of uncertainty and nervousness. It’s your family’s very first time “out together” since the scary diagnosis that rattled every part of your soul.

Your wandering eyes scan the room, looking for your curious and energetic children who have all suddenly left your side…all because you only took a slightly longer-than-usual sip of coffee. You let out a sigh of relief as you see counselors already introducing themselves to your children. In that very moment you find yourself letting down your guard- there are many eyes looking out for the safety of your little ones this weekend.

You wake up Saturday morning with tiredness in your eyes. It’s the first and only full day at Camp, and you’re uncertain how things will go. We head out for our hike, and you find your children climbing on your counselor. You find yourself telling them to stop. But your big grin interrupts you mid-sentence, because you see, the counselor has already embraced the rambunctious nature that is the authenticity of your kids, well, simply being kids. In that moment, you witness a connection being made. Your children take off running down the trail with the counselor, but you’re not worried. You’re pleasantly surprised that your shy kids, who usually take time to warm up to strangers, have quickly grown attached to that counselor.

I see your eyes when you talk with other parents- the heartbreak by the hard truth of “Cancer.” And then the realization that you’re not alone. You laugh through the tears as you share wholeheartedly and hugs are exchanged. And in that moment, I see strangers become friends.

I see the shine in your eyes from the layer of tears welling, when we talk about life and the reason why I keep coming back to volunteer at this magical place I call “Home.” I know you see the welling of tears in mine, when you share the long journey of your how you adopted your healthy foster child, only to be given the cancer diagnosis shortly after.

When it’s time to say goodbye, I see you sitting in your seat- quietly soaking in every detail of this moment. I see you processing a weekend that was filled with mixed emotions. And as I say a little prayer for you and your family in my heart, I see you blink yourself back into the “now”- with a nod and a longing in your eyes, you come to the decision that come what may, you’ll be back again in a year.

You tell me you realize Camp is not only a big playground you and your family can use as a vacation getaway once a year, but a place you can see your children spending summers at, year after year. You tell me your heart has been touched through this weekend’s experience- watching and feeling so much love poured onto your family. “You’re strangers, but you’re taking time out of your life to invest in the heart of my children,” you say to me, “and that means more than anything.”

Camp is a place where strangers unexpectedly become lifelong friends. And friends become family. I see the expressions on your face and your thoughts through your eyes. From your sad, tired eyes, to your big grin and your frown that’s turned upside down, through our conversations, and your “Thank you” that comes straight from inside the very core of your heart, I see and feel your life impacted in a positive way. I see the strength in you, and the fight. And those are the reasons I keep coming back to volunteer at Family Camp. Because you see, Dear Parents, my life is changed because of you, too.


Shark Bait

…And if you were wondering what that was all about…

When I’m not spending time as a photographer, going to school or coaching people through life, I put on my Counselor Hat and volunteer as a camp counselor at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times– a camp for kids and families affected by childhood cancer. And although there are different programs throughout the course of a year, Family Camp Sessions (when kids can spend a weekend with their parents at camp) hold its very own special place in my heart. I have many reasons for why I continue to volunteer at camp year after year- why I attend Summer Camp differs from why I go to Family Camp, and different than that of Winter Camp.

Since I just spend two consecutive weekends up at Family Camp, and it’s still lighting up a large portion of my heart…that was my “why.” A little bit of Camp through my eyes.

…..if you’re in a giving mood, we have a Target gift registry HERE. We appreciate any and every contribution! 🙂 Thank you in advance!

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Coffee drinker, dreamer, go-getter, snowboarder addict, lover of life. And I hate BS.

4 thoughts on “Why I keep going back to a magical place I call Camp”

  1. Your heart is so beautiful Sharkey and you share so perfectly the gift of family camp for both families & volunteers ❤️💛💚💙


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