‘A world where nothing was wrong’
AVON ” I can’t imagine there’s anything much tougher than being a really sick child.
The feeling of sitting on the sidelines when other children are playing must be the ultimate in loneliness; or being constantly asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
I’d want to scream, “Nothing! Just let me have some fun!”
That’s what the OK Corral has its sights set on ” to be a place where seriously ill kids have a chance to just be kids, right here in Eagle County.
When Paul Newman opened his Hole in the Wall Gang camp in 1988 in Ashford, Conn., he opened a comprehensive and dedicated camping facility for children with cancer. His vision fostered the idea of a whole family of camps all over the world.
Recently, founding board member Alison Knapp, along with some fellow board members, held a reception at her home in Mountain Star to launch the concept.
The OK Corral will be a part of the Association of Hole in the Wall Gang camps.
Headed up by Knapp, the Campisis, Chris Carmichael, Lea Gore, Jane Healy, Merv Lapin, Candace Palmer, the Scharfs, Beth Slifer, and Bob and Karin Weber and several others, they are pounding the dusty and rocky roads to come up with everything they need to build a slice of old west for children who are seriously ill.
Lawyer Ruth Johnson has come on board to be executive director.
“Kids are kids,” said David Horvitz, a member of the national board of directors who was on hand to promote the camp. “These kids feel isolated, poked at and prodded in hospitals, and a week at the camp revitalizes them, because a whole year’s worth of fun is packed into one week.”
Studies have shown that these kids really do get healthier when they are at camp. They are accepted by each other and no one is treated differently or left out.
“We don’t want anyone to be different,” he said. “All campers are free, no one pays, whether rich or poor. Everyone is treated the same.”
The OK Corral will serve kids from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas and New Mexico. That’s a lot of children who need the fun and support that they will receive from a week at camp.
The camp will be a year-round facility encompassing summer camp, weekend retreats, a winter adaptive ski program and spring break camp.
Other programs may be also available, including special conferences and continuing education. There will be camps for families and brother-and-sister weekends, as well as bereavement camps to help families cope with the loss of a child.
Already, the dream is coming together, piece by piece.
Options are being explored for a site, and right now, the possibilities of receiving donated land is likely. Architect Jim Morter has agreed to donate his time to design the OK Corral. Medical professionals and hospitals are also coming on board to insure the camp has the proper medical facilities necessary to serve the children.
One former camper said it all: “The thing about camp is that I felt safe and free. At first I was a little shaky about staying away from home for a week, but after the first day I felt like it was home.
“Being at camp was like being in a world where nothing was wrong and I was as free as a bird, and that is a great feeling.”
For more information on how you can help make OK Corral a reality, contact Executive Director Ruth Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (303)478-2219.
At Dick Hauserman’s 90th Birthday party: “He’s too busy having fun to know he’s getting any older.”
Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado
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