INGLESIDE, Ill. — Each summer, dozens of kids battling cancer set their health challenges aside for one week to head to camp.
Every year, a group of kids gets the chance to trade hospital rooms and chemo treatments for summer fun at Camp Quality Illinois in Ingleside. For these kids, the memorable ‘five days of freedom’ is the best part of their year.
“I remember when I first got diagnosed. The doctor came and told my mom, my grannie and my dad,” camper Taveon Wodward said.
Now, 10 years later, Taveon is still pushing, one foot at a time.
“My grandson had 194 rounds of chemo, nine weeks of radiation, surgeries up the yazoo and this camp is heaven-sent for a lot of these kids,” Taveon’s Grandma, Iyonna Wright, said.
For five days each summer, campers are free to just be kids.
“Peaceful. It’s peaceful here,” said Wodward. “It’s a good place to get your mind off stuff.”
For 29 years, Camp Quality Illinois has given kids battling cancer a beautiful reprieve.
“Everything else happening outside of here is out of their control but the things they get to do here that build their confidence and make them feel successful, to give them that, is such an awesome thing to be able to do,” Mary Lockton, Camp Quality Illinois, said.
At Camp Quality, the campers get to trade in chemo for campfires, shots for swimming, and hospital beds for ball games.
“He doesn’t have to worry about being different,” Wright said. “Or when he’s hurting, tired, out of breath with the oxygen machine he doesn’t have to worry about any of that or who’s looking cause everybody there is just like him.”
Each camper has an adult companion, along with a full medical staff, to ensure the kids are in the best hands.
“We all have our daily struggles,” Lockton said. “Then you think about what these kids go through and you think life’s pretty good. What we have going on is nothing compared to what these kids have to go through day to day.”
Camp Quality depends entirely on donations and volunteers to make the memorable week happen and there is no cost for campers to attend, so for the five days, it’s all about being in the moment.
“They not explaining scars, not explaining why they don’t have hair or they don’t feel different than the other kids, because they get it,” Lockton said.
For Taveon, who’s been in hospice care for three years, each day at Camp Quality is a gift.
“The impact they have on these kids, the families, you know what I mean. Just a week of blessing for your kid is like a lifetime of memories,” Wright, said.