The Albert family treasures memories they made at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, but watching images of Friday’s fire isn’t one they want to remember.
“It was crazy, devastating, heartbreaking really,” said Kelly Albert of Bristol.
Her son, Connor Albert, was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2016.
She said Connor loved every second he spent at the camp that’s dedicated to giving sick children and their siblings a place to escape what they’re going through.
“He came back smiling like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, he always smiled, but grinning ear to ear. Constantly talking about things and people and what he did,” said Albert.
And even when Connor’s camp session was complete, he continued to wear his green cabin camp bracelet proudly.
“He was determined to wear that until he went next year and get his next color. Unfortunately, he passed away."
Connor passed away December 11, 2017.
Camp is where the Alberts befriended the Blais family.
Alex Blais was nine years old when he diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“Alex was in a wheelchair, but when they had circle time, he’d be over there singing and dancing,” said his dad Wayne Blais, who said the camp “gave him a chance to be a kid again.“
Connor and Alex made special memories on their own, together, and with their families at the camp before their lives ended far too soon.
Alex died June 9, 2018.
“I said to the girls [his twin daughters], ‘we’re lucky because the fire destroys the property. It doesn’t destroy the memories,'” said Blais of East Longmeadow, Mass.
Blais describes the fire as another devastating loss for his daughters and Connor’s sister Ava, too, who so enjoyed attending sessions at camp for siblings of sick kids.
“You got to hang out with other people who were experiencing the same things,” said 11-year-old Ava Albert.
While Blais said this club is one you never want to be a part of, Hole in the Wall Gang Camp made families with sick kids like theirs never feel alone.
So despite the fire, they hope more memories will be made in the future.
“There’s probably hundreds of thousands of families like the Alberts and the Blais’ who will do whatever we can, move heaven and earth, to make sure it endures,” he said.
As of Monday, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Three days after the fire, longtime fundraisers are already jumping into action like Andrew Berman who created “Push Against Cancer” a decade ago which benefits the camp.
“Usually the Push Against Cancer is a June event but in light of what just happened with the fire, we’re pushing the event up so that way we can help raise some money quicker and help bring summer camp to them,” he said.
While they’re still working out details, they plan to have the event in April this year.
Also Monday, Travelers Championship announced they will match $1 million in donations to the camp.