June 24, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
For 21 summers, peals of laughter from children attending Camp Rising Sun have echoed through the tall pines surrounding Camp Pratt in western Lowndes County. For a few days each June, fishing, archery, arts and crafts, rock walls and talent shows help round out a traditional camp experience for youngsters who have already had to deal with some very untraditional stress in their young lives.
Camp Rising Sun is for children who have had or are currently undergoing treatment for cancer. But during this respite, bright smiles and fun are uppermost on their minds. And what is summer camp without great chow? Thanks to local volunteers, hungry campers had plenty of reasons to flock to the mess hall during the June 10-14 session.
"If it weren''t for the volunteers who feed everyone, we couldn''t have camp," Allison Kizer stated frankly. As Camp Rising Sun co-director, Kizer knows how important caring civic groups and individuals who cook and donate items for the kitchen are to this unique annual effort. "There is simply no way we could thank them all."
Debbie Holloway enjoyed "every minute" of her first year as "head of the kitchen" -- responsible for making sure 44 campers and all counselors were well-fed. She praised the many volunteers who provided meals at their own expense and donated items and valuable time.
"We were so blessed with volunteers; Columbus came out and really supported us," she said. "I was not turned down by anyone, and everyone was so excited to be a part of camp. We had people who have been so good to do this year after year, but had new volunteers, too, like the group from Atmos Energy."
Atmos Operations Supervisor Larry Taylor and his wife, Debbie, were part of the team that provided grilled pork chops and "all the works" for a Saturday lunch.
"The pork chops were so tender and good!" said 14-year-old camper A''driana Rogers, of Columbus, a 10th-grader at Columbus High School.
Taylor shared, "We like to be involved in the community and try to do where the need is most. We really enjoyed it and plan to do it again."
Another new treat this year was a cookie-cooking day with Team J. Broussard. Chef Beth Broussard Rogers, her husband, Joe, mother, Mary Broussard, and assistant Katherine Feeney taught campers how to make four varieties of mouth-watering cookies.
"I really liked that," said camper Lexie Hallmark, 8, of Blue Springs. "We made the oatmeal -- they were good!"
More on the menu
Mike Law was one of the Roast-n-Boast volunteers providing and serving barbecue, potato salad, baked beans and cole slaw for the third consecutive year. The camp is a beneficiary of the annual cooking contest''s proceeds
"If you go out there and see those kids having such a good time, and knowing the personal things they deal with ... if that doesn''t give you goosebumps, there''s something wrong with you," he said of the camp''s impact. "We should be the ones thanking them because it gives us an opportunity to lend a hand to those who certainly deserve whatever we can do for them."
Will Cooper, of the Columbus Kiwanis Club, is a deft hand at pancakes; he helped make about 300 for a Friday morning breakfast. The civic group also cooked up about 200 pieces of sausage. "They really seem to love pancakes," Cooper laughed. "We''ve been doing this for a long time, at least 15 years. It''s always so rewarding. I encourage anybody in the community to get involved. It''s always great to see some of the same kids returning."
For the Columbus East Lions Club, firing up the grill on opening night and making cheeseburgers has been a tradition for about 15 years, said longtime member Howard Jenkins, a past director of Lions Club International.
"It''s one project that has really brought our club together each year," he said. "I guess it''s the feeling you get when you see those young kids that have cancer and how happy they are."
The almost 20 Lions volunteers -- men and women -- enjoy the mess hall vitality. "Oh, it''s noisy when they come in," Jenkins said with amusement. "They''ve been out doing some kind of exercise, and they come in all excited ... "
The feast goes on
As they have in years past, campers also enjoyed catfish from Charlie and Cathy Pilkinton and Wayne Beard. Tom Wolford, assisted by Howard Sharp and friends, again donated and cooked grilled chicken. Ann Sparkman contributed a homemade spaghetti dinner. Fried chicken, compliments of Sanders Oil Co. and Will Sanders, rounded out a delicious camp menu.
Camp co-director and 20-year CRS veteran Siggy Weeks said, "We like to share with the community what we''ve got going on out here. To me, we''re sharing the children with the community; it''s a way for them to give, and for us to give back to them."
The reciprocal relationship fuels Camp Rising Sun''s continued child-centered mission. By giving, you receive. As Holloway summed up, "You walk away with a blessing that''s like no other."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.