FLORENCE, Miss. (WJTV)- Everyone has a story, but not everyone’s story is the same and some are more difficult than others. For many kids at an annual camp in Florence, sports is a common activity and a shared interest, but cancer is something that’s affecting, or has affected, them all.
Camp Rainbow is just like any other camp. You can play games, fish and do arts and crafts.
But it also gives these kids a chance to do something else.
“You can talk about the kind of medicine, the names this long and you’re like, oh, I have the same medicine, the same doctors, the same nurses,” said camp counselor and committee member Karie Chatham.
She was diagnosed with kidney cancer when she was 12 and has been coming to the camp since she was 13.
“I remember a lot of the insecurity that follows from losing your hair,” Chatham said. “I remember what it’s like to be pulled from school to be put in a smaller school. I remember what it was like to lock yourself in the vehicle and refuse to get out because you hated chemo.”
Many of the kids at the camp have won their fights with cancer. Jaidyn Pittman is 13.She’s overcome leukemia twice.
“I was scared, I was very scared. They were talking to my parents about cancer and stuff and they said that you could die from cancer,” Pittman said. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”
Pittman’s favorite sport is basketball. She plays for her AAU team in Hattiesburg, the Southern Mississippi Elite. “I can go express myself,” she said. “I can go show something I could do, really good, that nobody else can do.”
Kassie Faulkner is 14-years-old. When she was six, doctors diagnosed her with brain cancer. The tumor was on her spinal cord but after two years of treatment, the cancer was cleared. Kassie started coming to camp the year after she recovered.
“It’s a fun place to be,” Kassie said. “You can hang out with your friends, just a whole bunch of stuff.”
This upcoming school year, Kassie will be the newest mascot at Forest High School. She says she wanted to do that “because I just like to go around everywhere.”
Andrew McCall is 11-years-old. This is his first year at the camp.
“People who’d beaten it and still going through it, that’s what I’m looking for,” Andrew said.
Andrew has leukemia in common with Jaidyn except Andrew is still undergoing treatment.
“I have to take pills every day,” he said.
He also has a port in his chest for chemotherapy.”I don’t like it because it sometimes hurts. But I have this numbing cream. I like to call it magic cream and it numbs up and I can hardly feel it.”
The 11-year-old from Sebastapol plays baseball for Backwoods Carpentry.
“It’s just fun,” Andrew said. “It’s my favorite sport and the doctor said I couldn’t play football.”
Football was Demekio Phillips’ sport in high school. He went to Jim Hill in Jackson. Demekio overcame a tumor on his lung when he was 12. He’s been coming to camp ever since and is now a counselor.
“Just being able to see other kids go through that it makes me feel like I should give something back,” Demekio said. “That’s why I volunteer.”
And that’s why most come back.
They come back for that common bond.
They come back to be inspired by those around them and in turn, whether they know it or not, they serve as inspiration for others.
” There’s nothing bad here,” Jaidyn said. “Everyone’s happy and I love coming here.”