Jerry Dale, owner of Manchester KOA in Manchester, Tenn., shares some thoughts about the good things happening at Camp Horizon, located just outside Nashville, Tenn., and other KOA Care Camps across North America. Dale served as the chairman of the KOA Care Camps board in 2013.
I’m very proud of the directors and all the volunteers at Camp Horizon. This is their 31st year at camp. Last year they celebrated their 30th anniversary. In a strange twist, it was also the year the American Cancer Society gave notice to stop all funding of their camp.
Daniel Salvaggio, Chris Reed, Russell Tyree and Joel Alsup started their own corporation, Beyond the Horizon Corp. and got the funds for this year. Tyree and Alsup have attended Camp Horizon as campers, counselor-in-training and counselors for more than 20 years. They told me that our funds from KOA Care Camps was much-needed! And very much appreciated!
Thank God the camp was saved! Hearing stories about how important this camp is to these dear, sweet kids, makes me aware of how very important it is to keep this going. This camp provides a week of camp for kids with cancer. They even had one day for the siblings to come and play. This is done every year at no cost to the parents.
At one parent meeting, in the beginning of the transition from American Cancer Society to their own corporation, parents were concerned about the struggles they may face raising money for camp. Several parents at that meeting immediately stood up and said they’ll donate for these kids, just don’t close to camp! One of the children, a 10-year-old boy, stood up and told everybody that he has saved up a little over $700. He told the directors that he would give all of it if they need it to keep camp alive.
To hear stories like this is just simply heartbreaking and inspiring all in the same time! The best news is the directors of the corporation raised all their money from outside sources. No parents, and especially that 10-year-old child, had to donate anything. Camp continues to be free to the children and parents.
Camp Horizon is a beautiful park in the middle of Tennessee. As you drive down the road, you hear the rustling from the trees. The shade covers the whole road. You can almost hear John Denver singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” as you drive. You feel that you’re going someplace special.
Seeing these kids run and play, some of them in wheelchairs assisted to play, brings you to a whole gamut of emotions – from joy to sadness, with every feeling in between. These kids with their illnesses seem to forget about their problems for little while. They are surrounded by friends that are just like them. They’re not made fun of by the way they walk or talk. They are not judged by the way they look. There’s an overwhelming feeling of love and caring here. The glow and the smile on their faces make them so very beautiful.
I tried my very best this year again to capture all this on my camera. And even though each one of these pictures is worth 1,000 words, you can never truly experience it unless you step foot on the ground of one of the Care Camps near you!
— Jerry Dale