Today, Debra, Fairygod Barbara(Sofie's godmother) and I drove to pick up Sofie from her week at Camp Kesem. We speculated on the drive there that she probably had a wonderful time and may not want to leave! I certainly missed her this week, but I know this had such potential to be a wonderful experience for her.
We got to camp a few minutes before noon as other families were in various states of arrival. I headed over to the area to collect Sofie's things and one of the counselor's said, "Sofie's mom, right?" Wow, how did she know. Was it the two mom thing? Didn't really matter to me, she knew who we were and that's really all that mattered. After putting her belongings in the car, the three of us started the hike back to the Dining Hall where all the kids were gathered, waiting on their family members. We passed Bean, Sofie's counselor, walking the other direction. She pointed to us and said, "Sofie's parents!!" It's so incredible to feel so welcomed. It's a nice camp, too. The rest of the year it's a Girl Scout camp so that had everything Camp Kesem could ever need for their camp.
Upon arrival at the dining hall, a few kids were sneaking out to meet their parents as they patiently waited in the heat to sign their kids out. The counselors got wise to that and stopped letting the kids escape. I stepped out of line, letting Debra stand there amongst the crowd to sign Sofie out. I kept peeking though the door, trying to get my own sneak peek at our snake girl. No longer capable of containing my excitement of seeing her, I went inside ahead of Barbara and Debra. I immediately spotted Sofie laughing and giggling with other campers. When she spotted me, she shouted, "Mommy!" ran over me, jumped into my arms and asked if I was the one picking her up? I gave her a big hug and assured her that Debra was coming inside soon. She proudly showed me a plate that Bean, her counselor, decorated awarding Sofie the "Most Expressive Expressions" award! Very cute.
The Dining Hall was mayhem, but nothing but love and happiness filled the air. All the kids were so happy to see their family members and I'm sure the feeling was very mutual. Another counselor, Glitter, came over and introduced herself to me and Debra. She said she spent a ton of time with Sofie since she was the counselors for 8-9 year old girls and apparently the 6-9 year range did a lot of things together. Her comments seemed to be part of a common thread from other counselors. Sofie was funny, fun, loved snakes, was a great swimmer and had a great time this week. That was so reassuring for both of us.
When asking Sofie what the green wristbands meant, she beamed telling us the answer. It meant she was a good enough swimmer to go into the 12 foot water...TWELVE foot, she said. All the counselors commented on her swimming abilities...especially for her age group. Our girl loves the water...part dolphin I believe. Sofie shared other fun stories about her experience. She literally couldn't be still as she was so excited to see us and thrilled to share in her good time.
While sitting for lunch, Bean shared her stories about Sofie. I had asked if there were any tears or a hard transition in the evening. She reported Sofie did fabulously. In fact, one of the camper's in her cabin had a parent that was *really* sick...near death. So the little girl was crying and worried. Our little empathetic, compassionate girl was so kind and caring towards her. Telling her that her mom was fighting cancer and maybe he'd be okay. (Unfortunately, the little girls parent died while she was at camp.) Bean said that after Sofie gave her pep talk to the little girl, there was nothing more for her as a counselor to say. That's our girl. You just can't teach that level of compassion. We model and hope she's kind to the world, but this goes above and beyond what a seven year old would be expected to do. We're so very proud of her.
Bean told funny stories about Sofie and commented on what a smart girl she is. How quickly she picked up on things. We've always known she was smart, it's just really great to hear it for others. She also said she was well behaved with only a few encounters that all surrounded having to wear sneakers and socks! As we left, Bean gave us all four a big hug. That told me right there that she had connected with Sofie and in turn Sofie was in great hands and probably had the time of her life. I can't wait til she gets to go back next year...and the year after that!
I would encourage all of you to learn more about Camp Kesem. BTW, Kesem means "magic" in Hebrew, so if definitely was "Camp Magic" for all that attended...and volunteered. Camp Kesem is becoming a national organization and needs your $$ and support. If your interested in donating to the organization or a specific camp, click here to donate. This camp is specifically for children of cancer patients and best of all...it's FREE. The organization is growing by leaps and bounds and have approximately 21 campuses involved in camps all over the US. So many kids benefit from their generosity and so many counselors spend the time of their lives working in this magical environment. Help them spread the magic if you can.