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ACS seeks Camp Hope partner

The agency will no longer fund camps as of Dec. 31

POSTED March 27, 2013 4:00 p.m.
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A Camp Hope camper splashing around in the Camp...

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For 30 years, children with cancer have found a week’s refuge from their ravaging illnesses at a camp appropriately named Camp Hope.
For three decades, around 80 kids from all over Kansas and some from Missouri flocked to the rustic site nestled among the scenic, scrubby, gently rolling sand hills northwest of Great Bend each summer. They came to Barton Community College’s Camp Aldrich to swim, ride horses, fish, do crafts, make lasting friendships and, most importantly, forget for a spell their lives filled with needles, treatments and hospitals.
It was a chance for kids to be, well, regular kids.
But, just as plans are under way for the 31st Camp Hope June 16-22, news came that future camps could be in jeopardy. The American Cancer Society, which sponsors Camp Hope and 41 other similar youth camps nationwide, announced Tuesday that it will no longer fund the events after Dec. 31.
“This was a tough one,” said Stephanie Weiter, ACS regional vice president from Wichita of the painful decision. “But, we need to refocus our efforts.”
Although it is difficult to put a dollar figure on it due to all the volunteer efforts, Camp Hope is not cheap. Factoring in the of staff, insurance, background checks, marketing and other expenses, she estimated the cost at about $150,000.
The camp is free to campers and open to youngsters ages 7-17.
Around $4-5,000 comes in each year from private donors, organizations and memorials all over Kansas. Plus, there are several local and state entities that provide in-kind support.
Now, the cancer-fighting organization will channel more resources into research to find a cure for the disease for victims of all ages, Weiter said. “This is the 100th anniversary of the ACS. We want to make sure there is no cancer in the next 100 years.
“The society’s goal is to finish the fight and save even more lives from cancer,” Weiter said. “In light of a challenging economy that has put increased pressure on resources, funds are being reallocated to save more lives faster.”
“We don’t want kids to even need a camp down the road,” said Wichita-based Dana Kemp, ACS High Plains Division communications director. “This is not a knee-jerk reaction to the economy. There was much thought and deliberation put into it.”
The agency has spent nearly a year evaluating programs.
However, nobody wants Camp Hope to fold its tent, said Gail Moeder, a Great Bend resident who has served on the camp’s committee since the early days.
“The camp is extremely important to us,” Moeder said. “The committee is very committed to keeping a camp.”
How? “Our hope is we find someone to step in and take over,” Weiter said. “We don’t want to see the camp go away.”
ACS personnel spent Tuesday meeting with its Camp Hope partners, breaking the news. They sent e-mails to past campers and their families letting them know of the change.
“The Great Bend community has been so good to Camp Hope for so long,” Weiter said. “We really appreciate everyone who stepped up and helped.”
The college, Walnut Bowl, The Club at Stoneridge, The Knights of Columbus, the Optimist Club, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, and Unified School District 428 were among the many groups that were involved.

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