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Camp Quality Lets Kids Be Kids Again

Learn about a local summer camp that allows children with cancer to get away from their everyday struggles.

"It's hard to imagine sending a 5-year-old to camp, let alone a sick 5-year-old, but they trust us," Board member Carol Oostman said of the parents that allow their 5 to 17-year-old child with a cancer diagnosis to spend a week at Camp Quality in Frankfort.

Camp Quality USA, which started in 1983, expanded to 15 camps throughout the country and has been Illinois for the past 18 years.

 

There are 81 campers participating at the day camp held from Aug. 5 to 11 at Camp Manitoqua.

"We are at our capacity, and can't fit anymore [children] in," said Oostman who has been involved with the camp for the past 17 years.

For every single camper, there is a "companion" who is older 18 to look out and keep the camper company for the week. Beverly Bonnema-Ream is in charge of matching campers and companions together.

"I try to match them by likes, dislikes, sports, family background, and sometimes even neighborhood because it's near round," Bonnema-Ream said. "There have been stories of excellent relationships; people that have kept together forever."

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Logan Molenhouse, 15, has been coming to Camp Quality for about six years, and the Mokena teen has made his share of friends in that time. But it didn't start out that way.

"I was kind of excited 'cause it was a week away, 'cause it was freedom," said Logan, who suffers from leukemia. "I was away from family for the first time, not being told what to do all the time. But I was definitely nervous the first time. I didn't really know anybody except nurses. So it was scary the first time."

While at the camp, children can enjoy swimming, participate in a talent show, eat at an ice cream tent, compete in the "Wacky" Olympics (check out the footage in the media gallery) and much more."

"I had a lot of fun here, and there was a lot of stuff that I remember thinking 'I want to do that again," said 10-year-old Lily Pavlik of Frankfort who came back to the camp for her fifth year after not coming the previous summer.

Even though there are doctors on the site of the camp to help with medical attention and give children their prescription medicine, the campers seem as though they could not be any more content during the week.

"When [the children] are here, a lot of them look very healthy, but you don't know what they've all gone through," Oostman said. "We're trying to give them fun away from doctors and hospitals as much as we can."

Applications for companions are being taken for Camp Quality's February camp in Frankfort. Applicants must be 18 years old, willing to have fun with a child and still know how to be a kid, Oostman said.

Donations to the camp also are being accepted in the form of toys, supplying meals for campers (the Frankfort Kiwanis Club provided a waffle breakfast) and other ways.

 

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