Camp Keeps Kids Battling Cancer Smiling

Nestled deep in the woods of Litchfield County, Camp Rising Sun provides a refuge for more than 100 kids diagnosed with cancer. The Camp is free for campers and funded through the American Cancer Society, fundraisers, and donations.

Camp Rising Sun looks like any other summer camp, but instead of playing with a counselor during lunchtime a group of kids flock to their doctor.

"I’m a pediatric oncologist working out of Yale-New Haven Hospital in Guilford and I take care of the majority of these patients," said Dr. Joe McNamara. "Dr. Joe", as the kids affectionately call him, is a sort of celebrity walking through the mess hall.

"I come up here and have fun with them and I’m able to see them outside of the office and outside of the clinic," Dr. McNamara said. "They can run around and play and they can see me walking around with my shorts and t-shirt."

One of McNamara’s patients, Carson Halbower, a 7-year-old from Guilford, can’t contain her smile when at camp. Before lunch Halbower said, "I really like the arts and crafts, so far we’ve made dolls out of corn husks."

Many of the campers are just glad to be around people who are also dealing with cancer. "It’s nice to see a bunch of other kids have the same thing I do," said Shannon Cody of Glastonbury.

Of the 60 counselors at Rising Sun roughly a third were campers when they were younger. Katie Link, a 21-year-old from Wallingford, is a counselor now who came to the camp as a child after being diagnosed with leukemia. She says her experiences help her be a better counselor, "They talk about the different chemo treatments they’re on and I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I had the same problem.’"

After 27 years Camp Rising Sun has never turned away a camper who wanted to attend and they hope to keep kids smiling for years to come.

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