First Time Camper….. and Camper Parents

Written by Tammy and Craig Sankner, first time camp parents

(8-11-13) So today we dropped off Tara for her first time at Camp Fantastic. There were many emotions that were felt today during the drop off from being overly excited to tears being shed by both Tara and mom and dad. But let’s talk about what lead up to our first trip.

Tara was diagnosed on February 26 with a form of inoperable brain cancer. We were hooked up with Special Love thru the social workers at her clinic in Falls Church. During our first chemo session our social worker talked of camps and organizations that were out there to help out and Special Love was the main one mentioned. We were given information and attended their Family Spring Weekend. We attended and had a BLAST. Everyone there talked about Camp Fantastic and how much fun Tara would have. We had our camp screening and away we went.

We found out that Tara was able to attend Camp Fantastic and I was excited (you notice that I was the only one really excited). Tara had a bit of mixed emotions about going away to camp. She was excited but scared at the same time because this would be the first time she was away from us for this long of a period since she was an infant.

So we get our camp packet in the mail and proceed to start to get ready for camp. We make sure that all of her things were labeled and in order and ready to go. I make sure that all of her paperwork is in order and speak with Tammy about getting her treatment while she is at camp. So as you can imagine the anxiety was increasing for Tara and us.

So the weekend of the drop off has arrived. We double check her suitcase and everything is ready to go. We wake up on Sunday and load the car and head to Front Royal. Tara is excited and mom and dad are getting more nervous. I triple check the paperwork on the drive and Tara asks about 10 times during the 45 minute drive if we were almost there. (Someone is getting excited now.)

We get to the drop off point and we wait for the rest of the campers and the staff to arrive. We get out of the car and start to talk to other parents, a few that we know and here come the first bus….. and who comes running out???? None other than Holly. She comes off the bus with so much excitement and asks who’s ready for camp and runs up to me and gives me a giant hug. Tara sees her and runs out of the car and gives her a hug.

We then go and unload the car and start the check in process. Tara pushes her suitcase to the van that we need to put it in. (Yes mom over packed so she is good to go for a couple weeks.) The bikers arrive, more buses and campers. The excitement is getting high and Tara is getting ready to get on the bus.

The announcement comes that it’s time to load and here comes the tears. Tara is scared to leave us for the week and Holly is there to reassure her that everything will be OK. I know that during the next week that Tara will have the time of her life and she can forget for a bit that she has cancer. Seeing her leave was killer on my emotions. I held it together until she was out of sight and then the tears came down.

As a parent sending your child away to camp is a tough thing but sending your child away to a camp when she is dealing with cancer and going to go thru treatment at camp and you’re not going to be there is totally different. I have total faith that she is going to be taken care and that there are experienced staff to take care of her just like mom and dad will do.

I can’t wait to get my first phone call from Tammy to let me know how she is doing and am awaiting postings on the Special Love Facebook page to see if I can get a glimpse of Tara having fun. If you are asking if I am counting down the hours until we pick up, the answer is yes we are. There are 135.5 hours.

Many thanks to Special Love for taking care of Tara and giving her a week of unlimited fun.

Top Left – Tammy and Tara at Special Love’s Spring Family Weekend
Bottom Left – Tara and Holly about to board the bus for Camp Fantastic 2013
Right – Tara experiencing some Medieval Magic with her roommates and counselors

tara-tammy post pic - web