Celebrating 10 years of changing kids’ lives | VailDaily.com

Celebrating 10 years of changing kids’ lives

Ruth Johnson
Valley Voices

Roundup River Ranch is celebrating the 10th anniversary of our founding, which officially occurred on July 2, 2006, and, as this year continues, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to recognize, thank and appreciate our greater Eagle County community. It's our community that makes camp possible and ensures camp is always free to our campers and their families — and we cannot thank you enough for what you've helped us achieve to date.

This is a remarkable time for Roundup River Ranch, a time filled with reflection, celebration and dreaming big about what the future holds. So, in honor of our 10th anniversary, I'd like to share 10 special ways that we're offering you our sincerest thanks and celebrating your support:

• Endless laughter: You know how kids start giggling and they can't stop, and then they snort through their nose and then the giggling gets ridiculously more uncontrollable until everyone is giggling and snorting and actually crying tears of laughter? That is the ultimate success story of Roundup River Ranch, and it's the perfect thank you for your support.

• Ear-to-ear smiles (often on the faces of children who haven't smiled in some time): At Roundup River Ranch, children with serious illnesses have the chance to take a break from being a patient. That means some of the biggest smiles you've ever seen. All of the smiling faces at Roundup River Ranch are 1,000 thank yous for the endless commitment of our community.

• Newfound confidence, self-esteem, and social skills: Camp is more than just fun of games. The impact of camp is lasting and real. As campers return home to their communities, they're returning stronger, more resilient and more joyful than when they came. That's a remarkable gift that you've given them.

• Camp dancing: The best part about camp dancing? You can't camp dance wrong. Imagine the biggest, most enthusiastic dance party you've ever seen after nearly every meal at Roundup River Ranch. Our campers are celebrating you and offering their thanks on the dance floor as they let loose and express themselves.

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• Campfires (and ooey gooey s'mores): What's camp without a campfire and s'mores? At Roundup River Ranch, campfires and s'mores are part of the magic of camp. As campers are transfixed by the magic and serenity of a campfire, their thoughts of reflection and wonder are a thank you for your belief in the healing power of camp.

• Happy campers equal happy parents: It's not only the campers who are thanking you, it's their awesome families too. Whether they attend Family Camp at Roundup River Ranch together as a family and escape the realities of their diagnosis for a weekend, or mom and dad have a much needed break, often the first since their child's diagnosis, while their child is at Roundup River Ranch, we believe that camp is about supporting the entire family. That means happy campers equal happy parents, and lots of parents saying, "Thank you for changing my child's life in a way that I couldn't."

• New friendships: For a child with a serious illness, he or she may never have met someone who shares his or her diagnosis, nor has the same scars that serve as a reminder of the battles they've fought and the hardships they've faced. At Roundup River Ranch, there is a moment where a scar becomes a badge of honor. This is the basis of friendships that last well beyond camp. Parents have told us that their children have made their first friend at camp; the campers say that, "I never imagined I'd meet someone who has experienced what I've experienced. I found a new best friend at Roundup River Ranch." Each of these friendships is a thank you for your support.

• Every time "I can't do that" is replaced with "Yes, I can": At Roundup River Ranch, all campers can participate in every activity through the adaptations and modifications we offer. That means children whose lives are often defined by people telling them no, hear endless choruses of "yes!" It's a simple "yes" that transforms a child's life, and they leave Roundup River Ranch thinking about what else they can do. Your generosity, compassion and support is celebrated in every "yes" and every feeling of success and victory a camper experiences at Roundup River Ranch.

• Replacing "sick kid" with awesome kayaker (or fantastic fisherperson, outstanding artist, no-hands spaghetti eating champion and so many other combinations): Many of our campers are often known as the "sick kid," "the kid with cancer," or a bevy of other labels that focus on their illness rather than the remarkable and unique children that they are. At Roundup River Ranch, these children, thanks to the unbelievable love and acceptance they receive, discover that they are an awesome kayaker, talented equestrian, and so much more. These words have the ability to inspire and encourage well after the session ends. So, in honor of each of these campers and the unique talents they discover, we say thank you, thank you, thank you.

• Big dreams: The theme for our 2016 is Dream Big, and we're encouraging our campers to dream big dreams and make big wishes, and they're leaving camp with some of the tools they need to help make these big dreams come true. From "I dream to be a mermaid" to "I want to save someone's life like they've saved mine," each of the dreams and wishes that campers share is a testament to the life they are living, or the one that they aspire to in the future. Each of these big dreams is a special tribute and thank you to your support, and as an organization, we're dreaming big about what the future will hold.

As the camp season continues, and our anniversary comes and goes, we hope that you'll think of Roundup River Ranch and the amazing things that are happening in our community this summer. We are extremely fortunate to call Vail Valley home, and we offer you our sincerest thanks, appreciation and gratitude. And, of course, we hope that you'll join us around the campfire in a way that is meaningful to you, so please visit us at http://www.roundup riverranch.org to learn more about how you can volunteer, donate, attend an event or tour camp.

Ruth B. Johnson is president and CEO of Roundup River Ranch.

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