High Altitude Society: Roundup River Ranch’s A Grateful Harvest provides an emotional evening in Dotsero | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Society: Roundup River Ranch’s A Grateful Harvest provides an emotional evening in Dotsero

by Carolyn Pope
High Altitude Society
Three generations of ladies: President and CEO of Roundup River Ranch, Ruth Johnson with her daughter, Kristen and granddaughter, Emma Kenly.
Carolyn Pope | Special to the Daily

The most emotional fundraiser of the year is A Grateful Harvest for Roundup River Ranch, the camp located in Dotsero for children facing serious and life-threatening illnesses. The camp is staffed with medical professionals for both physical and mental support, trained staff and volunteers and is always free to children and their families.

This year, the event proceeds exceeded its goal of $1.1 million, which covers 440 of the of 1,400 campers who attend annually can attend next year, free of charge.

Each year, several campers attend the gala and sing camp songs for the guests. Each time an auction package sells (and they sell for big bucks), campers cheer “yes, yes, yes.” It’s the same cheer they shout when one of their new friends accomplish something they never tried before.

If children cheering you on while they are facing life threatening diseases doesn’t get your heart, then listening to some of their stories will. Listening to children speak of things that children shouldn’t know about yet is enough to bring you to tears, or more importantly, open your checkbook and make sure that every child who is in this position has the chance to experience Roundup River Ranch.

Why me?

“Why me?” was the question that haunted Alexander, who, at 17, is finishing his last year at Roundup River Ranch. His life, he explained, was defined by his illness. He was given a list of things he couldn’t do and “an arsenal of pills to replace those forbidden activities.” He spent his life hiding in his hoodie.

Roundup River Ranch changed that for him. Here, he could be a kid again, and didn’t need to withdraw because campers are experiencing their own personal struggle.

“Here, cancer wasn’t an elephant in the room that had to be addressed before anything else could be, it was something that everyone just understood,” Alexander said. “It was this common understanding that allowed me to be myself and to grow as a person unrestricted by my illness. It’s because of Roundup River Ranch that I rediscovered who I was and who I could be outside of the definition imposed upon me by cancer.”

It’s about being part of a group, because we all know what it feels like to be an outsider or the feeling that no one understands what you’re going through. The big question that can never be answered: Why me? It’s amazing that campfires, fishing and archery can change a life. But, as Alexander said, “behind every kid at camp there is also a war story and every fish they catch and every arrow they send flying into that target is a battle they have won.”

And those little victories may be the only victory they feel facing a life-threatening illness.

Roundup River Ranch, he said, altered the course of his life almost as much as cancer did.

What’s important

I could talk about food and wine served by generous chefs. I could talk about the magnificent packages auctioned off and all the guests who raised their paddles over and over again to throw more money into the coffers. I could write on those who sponsored and chaired the event. I could discuss an amazingly generous donor, Denny Sanford, who pledged $1,000,000 early on. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about kids who are sick. Really sick.

Alexander has been cancer free for five years, but the love doesn’t go away, just because (thank goodness) the cancer did. “Why me?” continued to haunt him.

“When our suffering is over, and no answer has presented itself, it is tempting to leave the question unanswered,” Alexander said. “We suffer because in suffering comes love. Love that forms remarkable communities like Roundup River Ranch, where we can continue our story and turn our suffering into love.”

For more information on Roundup River Ranch and how you can help, please visit its website at http://www.roundup riverranch.org.

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