Camp Gold 2021 Recap

On April 24th, 2021 Cancer Care Services hosted our annual AYA Retreat: Camp Gold, at Camp El Tesoro in Granbury, Texas.  The weather was absolutely perfect, and the day was, what I like to call simply MAGICAL!  We had 20 participants in attendance, and that included their guest.  We had two campers, plus their guests, who had to pull out last minute due to not feeling well because of chemo they had that week.  Plus 9 volunteers from Cancer Care Services and Rutledge Cancer Foundation. Staff members who joined us were Tori, Tamika, and Kayla, who did an EXCELLENT job leading our group discussion. Everyone enjoyed hiking, canoeing, kayaking, archery, the ropes course, group time, and meditation.

All-day, every participant kept thanking us for making this event happen.  Throughout the day, participants would express how glad they were to finally connect with fellow AYA’s (Adolescent and Young Adults) because like several of our clients, they spent most of 2020 in isolation and didn’t have the opportunity to meet others going through the same thing.  Several participants this year had either just wrapped up treatment, or are still on treatment, currently.  They all connected with each other INSTANTLY and absolutely made friendships that will go on past this weekend (at dinner they were passing around a pen and paper to get everyone’s name and number like they were 10 at summer camp! So cute!).  If I could describe this weekend in one word, it would be THANKFUL!  Thankful for the opportunities that 2021 is bringing us, and for being able to have in-person events again.  It was beyond evident that they are needed for our clients to feel a connection with others, now more than ever.  Specifically, our AYA’s who crave connection with their peers.  This is already a population that gets overlooked, and they definitely felt known, seen, heard, and loved this weekend!

Jessica and Michael Hugging

Jessica and Michael hugging after the zip-line.

Jessica and Michael:  Jessica was coming off a year, of just learning to walk again.  Last year, she lost all of her muscle mass, and the ability to walk.  You would have NEVER known that, this past weekend.  Jessica climbed the tower at the ropes course, walked across the long beam, to the platform, where you zip line, and ZIP LINED down!  Her husband Michael, was already up on the platform, cheering her on, and was weeping tears of joy when she made it to him.  Once they both got finished, they embraced each other with a HUGE hug both crying.  Michael talked about how a year ago, they weren’t even sure Jessica would ever be able to walk again, and there she was climbing towers, and zip-lining off platforms!  It was PURE MAGIC seeing her try EVERYTHING Saturday!  What an incredible story!

Carolina, Veronica, and their significant others.


Carolina and Veronica:  These two proudly called themselves “Cancer Besties”.  Both being in their mid-twenties, they were both getting treated at the same infusion clinic, and on the EXACT same day (1st day of treatment, for both), they were venting to their nurses, how they wished they could meet someone their age, and VIOLA, their nurses introduced them, and they have been inseparable ever since!  Veronica is married, and Carolina, has a boyfriend, and they made a double date out of the Retreat!


Whitney: Erinn (social work staff) reached out to me about Whitney, and stated she really felt like she could use a day like this, and asked if I would reach out to her, to see if she would like to join us.  Whitney has had one thing after another happen during her cancer journey, and Erinn was hopeful this would allow her to meet fellow AYA’s and get her out of the house.  IT DID!  Whitney was ALL SMILES, all day, with her cousin Andrea.  She tried everything!  The Ropes Course, (made it all the way to the top, and zip lined down), canoeing, and archery!  She looked at me, and said: “I am so glad I came. I would have just been sitting at the house doing nothing, had Erinn not suggested I come.”  I was so proud of her for trying everything, and her cousin was a great encourager for her!  All the activities were a FIRST for her, and she said her favorite was canoeing!  Kuddos, to our always wonderful Social Work staff for encouraging clients to come to Connect events.

ANDDDDDD that’s a wrap on Camp Gold 2021!  This event was SO NEEDED for this population, and I look forward to more in-person CONNECTIONS in 2021! – Megan Clifton, Client Connection Manager