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Camp Adventure remembers . . . Hugs and tears help to sustain hope

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO In a memorial service at Camp Adventure on the Camp Quinipet campus, butterflies were released.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO In a memorial service at Camp Adventure on the Camp Quinipet campus, butterflies were released.

Cancer knows no age, gender, color, religion or body type.

But for those stricken, yet fortunate enough to become part of the Camp Adventure family sponsored by the nonprofit Kids Need More, there is an ongoing support group that rallies to patients and their families whenever needs arise or a special event happens.

Last Thursday afternoon, the campers and staff paused from their week of fun at the Camp Quinipet site for a couple of hours to remember those who have succumbed to cancer. Overlooking the water where boats passed soundlessly, they sang songs, offered poetry and shared hugs and tears as they remembered the friends no longer with them.

“We came into each others’ lives sharing a gift of time,” said poet Tim Stowell of Latham, New York.

In preparation for the memorial service, campers painted signs bearing the names of those who had died — many bearing personal messages.

“Matthew — Tough Guy.”

“Cassandra — always missed. Let’s do some magic.”

“Ben — Focus on the positive.”

And most prominent — Angie — just 9 when she succumbed to cancer in November, having attended Camp Adventure last summer with her two sisters who were back this year to pay tribute to her.

At the height of the ceremony, campers and staff opened small envelopes, each containing a live butterfly they set free as they honored one of their own whose life had been cut short.

Some opened small containers setting free multiple butterflies that darted around the site, demonstrating the words on printed cards that expressed the feelings for those who once were able to frolic among them.

The cards read: “A butterfly lights beside us like a sunbeam and for a brief moment, its glory and beauty belong to our world. But then it flies on again and although we wish it could have stayed, we feel blessed to have seen it.”

Then one by one, the assembled campers and staff tossed pebbles into the water in memory of their friends.

“Never forget how lucky you are,” said John Ray, the man who married Camp Director Melissa Firmes Ray. Ms. Firmes Ray battles acute myeloid leukemia — an illness that struck her long after she formed Kids Need More to raise money to keep Camp Adventure functioning.

“I’m not special because I do the work that I do,” Ms. Firmes Ray said at the time of her diagnosis.

What’s special about her and the entire Camp Adventure family is the love they share for one another as they walk a difficult road together.