Chemotherapy may have saved my life, but the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp saved my spirit. I was a very angry eight year-old when my mother brought me to camp for the first time. She jokes that when she picked me up it was like picking up a different kid. The Hole in the Wall is like no other camp on the planet. It lets children who have all kinds of medical difficulties live, play, and celebrate just like normal kids. At camp, each child has a different story but they are all in the same boat. We laughed at doctor jokes, we climbed the rock tower, and we camped out despite our medical regimes. There is so much love in one place, its almost impossible to stay angry. That what makes the Hole in the Wall the most amazing place on earth.
Even though i missed my parents when they left me at the beginning, my counselors really cheered me up and I knew that camp definitely the place for me. We do so many activities with our cabin in the daytime we can go..... horse back riding, do archery, make arts and crafts, go to the wood shop, go swimming, do theater acting, go to sports and rec, go fishing, go into the treehouse, and possibly play tennis or to do mini golfing I feel like camp is part of my family now that I have experienced camp. And it was an extraordinary experience of a lifetime. thats how much I love camp!!!!!!!!
I am a parent of two campers, a cancer survivor and a sibling camper. When my son was diagnosed with cancer our who family went into overdrive and began a journey down a road no family should travel. Our family first went to HITWGC for a Family Weekend, and it was the first time we were able to spend time with people "who just get it". Once my children attended camp we saw a huge weight lifted...they finally felt like they had a place to belong. The kids were so happy to spend time with people who cared and understood. My kids are addicted to HITWGC, they would live there if it was allowed. Thank you camp for giving my family a new start.
I am actually both a former volunteer (10 summers and 14 total years, counting off-season programming) and now a camper parent. Needless to say, my love of camp runs both deep and broad. Others have said many of the things that I might have said--about how camp changes kids' lives, about the excellent medical staff, about how well maintained the beautiful facility is and about how thoughtful and intentional the programming for children is. All I can add is this. I took my five year old to camp this weekend. It had been a bad day in kindergarten. She spent the weekend jumping out of her skin with joy. On Monday morning, she told the parent of one of her classmates that she'd been at camp, and the parent asked her what kind of camp it was. Her answer, "the kind of camp where you're a rock star." And that's the crux of what camp is: the kind of place where after just two days, you're a rock star!
It had been a long and difficult year of chemotherapy for my seven year old. Then we learned about the Hole in the Wall Gang camp. It turned out to be everything she needed - a place filled with warmth, music, smiles, evenings by the bonfire, friendship, songs, laughter, happiness and love!!! Up until this day my daughter wears her ID bracelet (which used to be purple but now is all faded). She says that means her camp is always near. Her memories of this amazing time do not fade, and she is waiting for the next summer to go back to that wonderful place where children who had to deal with serious illnesses, pain and suffering become happy again! A huge thank you to all those who make it possible!
For the past 14 years The Hole in the Wall Gang camp has been a vital part of my life. As a camper I would live for the one week to go to the place where I could be my complete and total self without judgment. The counselors were not only my caretakers for the week but my friends who never showed lack of interest in me. It did not take me long to figure out that I wanted to be a staff member for camp. In my mind it was a no brainer decision to become one of the coolest people on the face of the planet. At least this was my view of all the counselors at camp. Making the transition from camper to counselor was everything I hoped for and more. I finally had the opportunity to bring the same joy which I experienced into hundreds of campers’ lives. I have also been able to develop amazing lifelong relationships with my fellow staff members. I feel so honored to be able to work with such loving, kind and selfless people summer after summer. One of my favorite things about being a counselor who was once a camper is having a deeper insight on some of the everyday struggles a young boy with Sickle Cell disease may have undergone. Three years have passed since my first year as a counselor and I am still in awe of the mission we are able to accomplish every summer. I can’t wait to complete my journey as a counselor this upcoming summer and hopefully make it nothing short of legendary for the campers of 2011.
My daughter Vanessa Gonzalez was a camper at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp from 1999-2003. This marvelous, miraculous camp changed her attitude about her illness completely. It is a wonderful place, like no other on this earth. From the 1st moment you arrive and are welcomed by the wonderful staff and counselors, to the last day when no one wants to go home, the children are treated like kings and queens. I, myself, spent a couple of weekends at the camp on parent retreats and also as a volunteer on work weekends. Everyone is wonderful, the place is magical, it makes you feel like it's the closest place to heaven. I cried with joy each time I was able to visit camp because I did not want to go back home. I love how it changed my daughter and how she became more open about her disease and more willing to help other people in her situation by just telling them her experiences and helping them through theirs. Everyone at camp is an angel and we miss you truly.
I have been a volunteer cabin couselor at Hole In The Wall Gang Camp for 8 summers now, and have been consistently impressed and amazed by the quality of the program and the permanent staff. But the best part - the part that keeps me excited and coming back - is the impact this wonderful program and these wonderful people have on the Campers and their families. I've been priviledged to see firsthand the healing and restorative effect of being in a place where safety, respect and love are not just nice words but a real way of life. And playing a tiny part in that, year by year has made me a better person, enabled me to put aside my own problems, my own struggle with diabetes, multiple surgeries and personal tragedy and have a wonderful shared experience with these children who have helped me as much (or more) than I have ever helped them. Working up at Camp has become a high point of my year and something I look forward to all year long.
I’m a mom. Not a soccer mom. Not a hockey mom. I’m a cancer mom. The day our son, Aaron, was diagnosed; we entered world of chemotherapy, surgeries, radiation, seemingly endless doctors’ visits and hospital stays. Most of that first year was spent in the hospital, sharing a 9x9 room with Mom and Dad. For a kid who had just started high school, it was difficult to lose his hard fought independence. His body took a hit, but his spirit took a hit too. When his docs recommended The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, we had to think it through. They wanted us to send our bald, fragile, vulnerable son out to the woods - for a week - alone. But, he was not alone. Surrounded by loving, giving counselors, other kids going through the same kind of rough times and a full medical staff, camp gave him a chance to heal his spirit. He enjoyed woodshop, movies and swimming. He was too weak to climb the rock wall tower, but The Hole in the Wall Gang had the answer: “cabin lift”. His cabin-mates grabbed a hold of the rope and lifted Aaron up to the top. From that perch, he looked down and saw that he was not alone. He would never be alone. As part of The Hole in the Wall Gang, he has friends who understand what it is like to fight for your life. The Hole in the Wall Gang brings together people who know how to appreciate little things - like a well-made s’more ‘round the campfire. This summer, he was back at camp. At the rock wall tower, he was the one helping pull others to the top.
I attended The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp as a camper and later as a volunteer counselor. I have zero hesitation stating that camp changed my life and made me who I am today. I was born with a severe bleeding disorder, hemophilia. My body also developed an inhibitor, which means my body rejected the only medicine available to treat this disease. As a result, I quickly developed crippling joints with constant bleeding into my joints causing severe chronic pain. On top of this, at the age of 12, I also learned that I contracted AIDS and Hepatitis C from my medication to treat my hemophilia. I was told I had about 1 year to live. All of this led to depression and low self-worth. It was the next summer that I learned of the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. For years I kept to myself and became extremely shy. Not only did I feel I wasn’t worth much, but I was scared to death to let anyone into my life in fear they would discover my HIV status. So it took me about a day at camp to really come out of my shell, but when I did, it was like discovering a whole new world! Before camp I always heard about how awful people were (usually in reference to the treatment of people with AIDS). It wasn’t until I was at camp when realized…there are good people in this world, and more importantly, it was ok to be myself. For that one week at camp, I didn’t have to pretend I was someone I wasn’t. I didn’t have hid from people in fear of them getting to know me. I could be me…100% ME! While the activities were great, it really is the people, campers and counselors, which make this the best organization in the world. I went from feeling like a misfit to feeling like I belong somewhere. I remember sitting up all night with my whole cabin cracking jokes, sharing stories about friends that we’ve lost, to making farting noises, to crying, to sharing tips on the best ways to take that gross tasting medicine…there isn’t anywhere else that this happens. For the first time, I found myself. It was no longer “poor me”, it was “wouldn’t it be cool if I didn’t let my diseases define me” or “I now know I can do amazing things DESPITE my diseases.” Camp gave me the strength and confidence to get out of my room and actually live my life, graduate high school, be the first in my family to graduate college, intern for MTV, live on my own in L.A. and N.Y.C., backpack Europe, and now have a career, married to the woman of my dreams and actually consider starting our own family. All thanks to the life that camp encouraged me to have!