Many days when I get into my office I glance over and look at a giant mock-up check made out to Happiness Is Camping, dated June 7 2004 from the Charles Lafitte Foundation in the amount of $400,000. Money raised at their second ever Golf Tournament and matched by The Citron Family. This is the only mock-up check I have ever saved, and we have received many over the 30 years we’ve been in existence. To date still it represents the largest single donation our camp for boys and girls with cancer has ever received. Pretty heading stuff for a small charity running a sleep away camp for very sick children in Northwest NJ.
Most important is what those substantial funds have allowed us to do. The Charles Lafitte donation, has allowed us to construct, furnish, stock and maintain a state of the art 24/7 Health Center. Air conditioned, handicap accessible, friendly and non -intimating it is place where kids with cancer can stay overnight, get their blood work done, get chemo or their meds if needed, talk to a doc or nurse if they are homesick, or if they have a tummy ache or a bruised knee. Doctors and nurses from the top NY Area Cancer Hospitals and Pediatric Oncology Centers are always in residence.
Because of this Health Center kids who are way too sick to go anywhere else for a summertime break are able to be a “normal kid” away at sleep-away camp for a week or for a day or two if that is all their health allows. Nobody at camp notices a bald head, a swollen face from Prednisone or a missing limb. Nobody looks twice at a kid wheeling around an IV drip pole through the halls of the Health Center.
And that is what Happiness Is Camping is all about. It is a special place where the remarkable is routine. We are a free sleep-away camp that has hosted 400 or more children with cancer every summer for the past 30 years. It is a regular summer camp for normal kids who just happen to have cancer. The camp is free to all supported by donations and volunteers. Docs and nurses provide medical care of the highest quality with facilities for kids needing chemotherapy or at risk of bleeding or infection or with significant disabilities. Without the high quality Health Center designed to address these kids’ special needs we would be hard pressed to create the special opportunities for children that the Citron Family and the Charles Lafitte Foundation work so hard to support.