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Having fun ... at Camp Rising Sun

 

Camp Rising Sun co-director Allison Kizer rings the camp bell Tuesday to signal it’s time to change activities.

Camp Rising Sun co-director Allison Kizer rings the camp bell Tuesday to signal it’s time to change activities. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

There’s nothing like a dip in a cool pool on a hot day for 8-year-old Darius Miller of Columbus. He is the son of Monchella Miller.

There’s nothing like a dip in a cool pool on a hot day for 8-year-old Darius Miller of Columbus. He is the son of Monchella Miller.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

15-year-old camper Chase Jackson, of Sturgis, shows his stuff in a cooking activity coordinated by volunteers Clay Bowen and Eric Dawson.

15-year-old camper Chase Jackson, of Sturgis, shows his stuff in a cooking activity coordinated by volunteers Clay Bowen and Eric Dawson.
Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

Immanuel Jones, 13, scales the climbing wall as volunteer Sam Collier of Columbus Fire and Rescue monitors his progress. Immanuel is the son of Carol Jones of Amory.

Immanuel Jones, 13, scales the climbing wall as volunteer Sam Collier of Columbus Fire and Rescue monitors his progress. Immanuel is the son of Carol Jones of Amory.
Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

Jamie Hutchinson, 8, concentrates on an arts and crafts activity. Her parents are Pat and Audrey Hutchinson of Starkville.

Jamie Hutchinson, 8, concentrates on an arts and crafts activity. Her parents are Pat and Audrey Hutchinson of Starkville.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Twelve-year-old camper Wesley Rivera of Pontotoc and volunteer driver Neal Smith of Starkville cruise on a jet ski past swimmer Justan Cartwright. Justan, 11, is the son of Nekenya Cartwright of Rosedale. Wesley’s parents are Maria Rivera and Juan Carlos.

Twelve-year-old camper Wesley Rivera of Pontotoc and volunteer driver Neal Smith of Starkville cruise on a jet ski past swimmer Justan Cartwright. Justan, 11, is the son of Nekenya Cartwright of Rosedale. Wesley’s parents are Maria Rivera and Juan Carlos.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

Volunteer Sam Collier of Columbus Fire and Rescue, right,. makes sure 13-year-old T.J. Wallace of Amory gets a safe start down the zipline Tuesday. T.J. is the son of Terry and Crystal Wallace.

Volunteer Sam Collier of Columbus Fire and Rescue, right,. makes sure 13-year-old T.J. Wallace of Amory gets a safe start down the zipline Tuesday. T.J. is the son of Terry and Crystal Wallace.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

First-time counselor Buck Bateman of Columbus sits near the dock as campers get ready for a ride on a pontoon boat.

First-time counselor Buck Bateman of Columbus sits near the dock as campers get ready for a ride on a pontoon boat.
Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

There is a special place children who are battling -- or have battled -- a diagnosis of cancer can go. A place where they are not "different," not "the sick kid." A place where memories of hospitals and treatments recede and life is just about summertime, camp and all that goes with it -- swimming, fishing, campfires, scavenger hunts, crafts, archery, canoeing, spirit sticks and new friends. Camp Rising Sun in western Lowndes County has been making good on that promise to children since 1987. 

 

Fifty-five campers ages 6 through 16 arrived June 10 at the Columbus YMCA's Camp Henry Pratt, where Camp Rising Sun is held, and began a week-long adventure. Campers who have been diagnosed are permitted to bring a sibling or close friend, helping the camper feel more at ease, especially if it's their first time to attend. The goal is to provide children with a traditional camp experience while recognizing and meeting their health needs. 

 

Campers were on the move all week, from breakfast in the mess hall every morning to lights out every night. Medical personnel were on site 24/7, but the focus was always on what children can do, not what they can't. 

 

"It's such a rewarding experience," said Allison Kizer, who co-directs Camp Rising Sun with Siggy Weeks. "We want to give those kids an opportunity to go to camp, something some of them couldn't do if it weren't for this." 

 

Kizer and Weeks are only two among a tireless army of volunteer staff and counselors who, exhausted as they may be at the end of camp week, can't wait to sign on for next year. 

 

"We couldn't function without this community. So very many people have been so supportive of Camp Rising Sun," Kizer emphasized. 

 

From Columbus Fire Department volunteers to civic and service organizations like the East Columbus Lions Club and Macon, Philadelphia and West Point Junior Auxiliaries, from those who bring personal boats and jet skies out for the children to ride on, to counselors who bait hooks for little anglers -- Camp Rising Sun runs on donated people power. 

 

Charlie Pilkinton is a Lowndes County farmer who has volunteered to donate and cook catfish for campers for the past seven or eight years. Wayne Beard, David Ashmore and Doug Moss are helpers. Like all the volunteers, they do it because it feels good. 

 

"Everyone out there just works so hard to make sure those kids are having a good time, and it's an honor to be able to do a little bit to help them," said Pilkinton. 

 

While the administrative staff knows which campers have been diagnosed, and which are siblings or friends, volunteers do not. 

 

"We want them all to be treated as if they're the same," said Kizer. "Even if they have some after-affect from chemo or treatment in their speech or in their walk, they're not isolated, because all the other campers have either been through it or been close to someone who has. We're here to help them be 'just kids' for a week." 

 

To learn how you can help children battling illness enjoy Camp Rising Sun, visit camprisingsun-columbusms.com.

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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