Southern Indiana summer camp allows ill kids to enjoy childhood fun
UNDERWOOD, Ind. (WDRB) -- A local camp in southern Indiana is focused on fun and healing. The nonprofit organization brings children of all ages together to escape the worries of cancer.
Board games, basketball and some R & R. "Every year, we have a huge countdown and it's just something we look forward to like even as kids and even now, we have just as much fun as when we were seven," says Laurel Dortch, a companion for Camp Quality.
It looks like your typical summer camp. "I've been cancer free ever since I was eight years old," says Brennan Mattingly, another companion for Camp Quality.
"I was diagnosed with cancer when I was three years old," says camper Carragain Taylor Wood.
"It was in my abdomen. So, that was when I was five and I had nine months of treatment," Dortch said.
Unimaginable cancer stories, when life is just getting started. "I lost my mother at the age of 10 and at 18 years old, you don't think about kids going through this and I went that summer and it completely changed my life and I've been a part of the CQ family ever since," says Eddie Bobbitt, executive director for Camp Quality.
Welcome to Camp Quality. "Some of our kids are survivors. Some of our kids are in active treatment, but we try to forget all that, throw a pie at each other's face, do some fishing and just be kids again," Bobbitt said. That's Camp Quality's mantra.
"I know from a young age, I know I was just confused really with what was going on. So, like here, you just get to forget about all that and all the worries and everything and just be a kid again," Mattingly said.
At four years old, Mattingly and then his younger sister battled leukemia. "We both end up getting to go to Camp Quality and we've been here ever since," Mattingly said.
Twenty-two and cancer free, they became companions at 18. "I've actually got one of my best friends here to help volunteer. So, they hear all of our stories, hear the excitement, and they're like, 'man I really want to be a part of that,'" Mattingly said.
The national organization began nearly 30 years ago and has camps around the country, like the one in Underwood, Indiana.
"I know it sounds cliche, but it does seem like a 200 person family. It's the support that each other have for one another, whether it's supporting our campers, whether they go through their journey, or just supporting each other through life's challenges," Bobbitt said.
This past week's summer camp offers full days of activities for campers five to 16. "That's just the Super Bowl if you will," Bobbitt said.
Camp Quality also includes year-round services, all completely free, thank to grants, charities and fundraisers.
Camp Quality plays a key part in a life-long journey. "I might want to be a companion when I get older. I would like to watch over somebody during camp (how somebody) watches over me," Wood said.
"I would not change a thing that's happened to me," Dortch said. "It's just given me so much joy to give back to the kids that I used to be and so many of my other friends here used to be, and I think that's something that's really special."
Camp Quality USA has 15 other camps in 13 states. To volunteer or donate, click here.
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