Why I Run: Kelley’s Story

family holding trophy sign sporting life 10k finish area

Camper families participate in the Sporting Life 10K for many reasons. Kelley shares her reason why.

“My oldest daughter, Serena, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) just before her third birthday. I was also pregnant, so it was a hard time for us. We were in the hospital a lot, and that’s where we first met the staff from Campfire Circle.

They were amazing. If Serena was not up for coming out of her room, they would come in and do a craft with her. Sometimes, when she couldn’t even sit up in her bed, they would sing songs for her with their ukulele. It was just great for Serena to have someone positive there; someone that wasn’t a scary presence for her in the hospital.

camper in boat at camp

Serena knew when she saw Campfire Circle with their braids that this was going to be a fun time, which was a great relief for us because it was hard to provide fun for her at the time.

When it was time for kindergarten she was still on treatment, and I thought we should keep her home for another year. But Serena had been isolated for so long that her oncology team really encouraged us to send her to school and to camp.

We sent her to two weeks of day camp with Campfire Circle and her experience there was seamless. When she needed to take lots of naps, the team said: ‘No problem. Someone will be available to stay with her while she’s napping.’ The staff provided everything else she needed.

Day camp was a good way for me to transition her to being away from us and ease her into school. I knew she would be medically taken care of, loved, and nurtured. It was a relief for me to know that. Serena started attending day camp regularly because she loved it so much.

camper going into swimming pool at day camp

When Serena was old enough, she began going to sleep away [overnight] camp. Leading up to camp, she was always filled with such excitement. She knows no one is going to bully her. She knows that kids will be supportive, and that there are other kids who are like her.

We talk about her experience, and she says that sometimes they talk about what they went through, and she shares what she went through, which is really great. I think when she’s at school, Serena wants to keep it hidden. I think she doesn’t want to say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that, and the reason why is because of this,’ or ‘that’s harder for me because of this.’ She struggles with physical things and even academically. There were things linked to her treatment that were just harder for her to work through.

As her mom, I think: Hasn’t she had to deal with enough already? But when she goes to Campfire Circle, I never have to worry about that. I never have to worry about her feeling like she has to work harder to keep up with other people, or to mask it, or hide it. She can be totally open, and no one judges her, or expects more of her than she can give.

family at weekend at camp

We’ve been able to do two family weekends at camp, and it’s amazing to watch both my daughters just be so free. And the volunteers, I cannot say enough about how they just see what a kid needs, and they jump in and get it done. Sometimes they can read my daughters better than me! And it’s been wonderful to get to witness a part of her overnight experience.

My youngest daughter is now seven years old and has her own experiences at camp.

She has come to a lot of community programs like kick sledding, Halloween, and the holiday party and always really enjoys it. She was so young when Serena was diagnosed, she wasn’t familiar with Serena’s treatment. Now she’s making sense of her sister’s experience. She’s become protective of her. It’s becoming part of her story as well.

We participate in the Sporting Life 10K because it’s for Campfire Circle. Anything we can do to support this organization that has given us so much, we’re happy to do it. It’s also my Mother’s Day gift. I want us to experience this together. It also helps us introduce to our girls why giving back is so important. I want them to understand that we also need to give back.

camper wearing purple superman cape at the sporting life 10k

family group photo at the sporting life 10k

family at sporting life 10k finish area

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