Jarvis Kuo’s history with Special Love goes almost all the way back to the beginning – he joined Camp Fantastic in 1986 at age 10 after a diagnosis of osteogenic sarcoma and the amputation of his right leg. He very quickly became one of the most familiar faces at camp with his trademark light blue cap and crutches moving everywhere – usually at a high rate of speed. He spoke very little English, but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm, or the impact he felt from camp:
“Having Camp Fantastic in my life made me feel normal again. After losing my leg to cancer I felt out of place and didn't belong. However, I was just a normal kid at camp going through the same things [as] other kids”
The next chapter of his camp involvement came in 1993 when he became a counselor and, as Jarvis puts, “never left.” Throughout his camp history, Jarvis’s most enduring talent was in a contest known as the “sing-down.” Contestants face each other with foreheads touching and, on the word “go,” have to sing while staring into each other’s eyes. The first person to smile or laugh loses and each round’s winners pair off until only one victor remains. Jarvis was the undefeated champion of the sing-down for almost 20 years. His secret weapon? Singing only in Chinese.
But Jarvis thinks there is a serious side to camp, too. It’s in the life-long bonds that are created and the family – not just community – that camp creates. It’s one that he credits for making him a better person.
“I think special love saved my life. This place made me feel like a normal person that was just part of a greater community. My cancer journey was hard but Special Love was there to provide all the support I needed.”
“I can’t imagine my life without special love. This organization made me a better person. The love from everyone and how everyone treats each other like family. This is a safe place and no one is ever (looked at) as different. I always love what Tom (Baker) would say, that this place is how the real world should be. I am forever in debt to Special Love and I can't ever pay back the love and support everyone has given me.”