Camp Debbie Lou: A Care Camp Visit to Remember

Camp Debbie Lou: A Care Camp Visit to Remember

What we do as marketers can often be about strategy, profit, and (to be blunt) the bottom line, I’m so grateful that working with Kampgrounds of America means more than that. I experienced the “more” last week, when I received the amazing opportunity to visit a KOA Care Camp in Latta, South Carolina – Camp Debbie Lou – with KOA account manager, Rachel Martin.

Haven’t heard of it? Don’t know what a “Care Camp” is? I didn’t either. There are three main reasons why you might be familiar with this place: 1) You happened to be a close, trusted member of the tight-knit family that runs the summer camp. 2) You visited Camp Debbie Lou as a child and you are a survivor who wants to return and donate time. 3) You have a son or daughter who is battling cancer.

Yes, a KOA Care Camp is a very special place where families dealt a tough hand can take a break from the reality of their everyday life…to just be a family. Often times, a family like this is physically broken apart. A common scenario means one parent is in another city, staying at the hospital with their child or traveling back and forth to doctor visits, while the other parent works full time to support them. The child’s brother or sister goes to school. They are all in different places, unable to function as a family. One unique and special thing about Camp Debbie Lou is that all the immediate family members are invited to be there. As Camp Counselor Cole said, “We see individuals climb out of their car on Thursday night. By Sunday when they leave, they are a single-family unit again.”

From talking with the Camp Director, Dean, I learned that his main goal was to give these families 4 days and 3 nights of an experience they would remember for a lifetime. While touring the grounds, it seemed to me that this camp retreat serves that exact purpose. Between a custom-built go-cart racetrack, horse stables, and riding ring, to bumper boats and a fishing pond, this place is made for fun. To be realistic, kids get to experience things here that they probably wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. Their parents also get to be there and watch their child ride a horse, catch a fish, and laugh with their new friends.

For me as a mom, I noticed that while this camping trip may be a special experience for the kids, it seems to be even more beneficial for their parents. Between the pain of coping with a sick child, the countless doctor visits, and endless days of worry, parents truly have to be tough for their children. Part of what Care Camp provides for them, is a chance to face new and positive challenges right alongside their children.

During my visit to Camp Debbie Lou, I met a woman who had never ridden a horse, and she was somewhat hesitant to try it. With the encouragement of her kids, she overcame her fear, hopped up on the horse, and proceeded to ride around with a huge grin. Thanks to the Camp Director Dean’s wife Robin, who devotes all her time to taking photos and printing them out for families to take home, they will have pictures of that experience and all the other fun things they did.

My hope is that each family will take these memories with them, and it will provide that positive push they need to face the tough road ahead. 70% of childhood cancer can now be cured. The odds are good, and an uplifting experience at Care Camps may be just what a family battling cancer needs to win the fight.