Our guest blogger this week is Janelle Hilger-Kopshinsky. Janelle lives with her family in Olathe and began volunteering at Camp Hope in 2008 and now serves as Chair of Camp SIBsational for KyMel, Inc. a non-profit whose goal is to provide connecting experiences for families on the cancer journey. She is a licensed, clinical social worker and works as a prevention response specialist within several educational, for-profit and non-profit community agencies in Kansas. She likes to binge novels and sporting events while living across the street from family and laughing with her husband, Dan. Some of her favorite things include travel, all things KyMel, “outdoorsy” backyard adventures, and a satisfying cup of warm coffee.
I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Craig, for offering the opportunity to reflect and share “aloud” some of my personal experiences and in particular a “community gem” that remains an oasis for many children and families on the cancer journey.
Over the most recent weeks, along with the world, I have been reflecting on the mysteries of strengths available throughout life and beyond. This particular moment in time for me, has lifted up God’s strength in my life-noticeably found in the relationships that “I do life with” (a common phrase from Mark LoMurray, founder of Sources of Strength) such as family and friends, chosen family, mentors and guides and available communities. My spirituality is frequently strengthened through these relationships and is especially present TODAY as our world navigates into the unknown, a common certainty of living.
There is a parable in my faith community about the “Growing Seed” and a life that grows in stages and reaches fullness at the time of the harvest. Human beings have work to do in this process but the seed ripens “of its own accord.” "Growth is a process and God is the source.” This particular parable and lesson, from the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd helps me (and likely many others within faith communities) contemplate, explore and fall in love with life itself and to appreciate the strengths within each of us, as well as all around us.
A spiritual place for me that I would like to spend a little time sharing more about today, is the community found within KyMel,Inc; whose goal is to provide connecting experiences for families on the cancer journey. I hold this special place with DEEP REGARD in my heart, for the community impacts and ripples of hope witnessed within our families and campers, supporters and volunteers. Their beautiful and unique stories make up our cherished history.
What started as a “special place beyond the rainbow” in 1983 continues to nourish the lives of so many. In particular, the invitation to appreciate the stages of life and the stories of hope available at any given moment is etched into our existence. Although our organization and camps; CampHope and Camp SIBsational, are not “religious” in nature and these sentiments reflect my personal, spiritual journey, some of our traditions, practices and cultures are spiritual in origin- as they honor going through devastating circumstances, together and connecting ourselves to things greater than reality, as we uphold in shear appreciation the gift of life.
Camp Hope began as a dream of a special individual who wanted to give children with cancer a safe haven in the summer to be kids, a camp of their own. In 1983, Donna Brown, “Ma” Donna, established the first Camp Hope in partnership with the American Cancer Society. Her vision was inspired over time as a parent of two children with cancer. Even though her son, Kyle, died in 1971 from a brain tumor and her daughter, Melani, in 1984 from leukemia, she never gave up hope for a camp for kids with cancer to become a reality and out of resiliency, Camp Hope was created and continues to take place each summer. To read more about our history, please visit our website.
Knowing that the diagnosis of cancer affects the entire family, in 2019 Camp SIBsational was created for the siblings of children with cancer. Oftentimes siblings can feel scared, neglected, guilty and even jealous. While these are all normal emotions, they can make many siblings feel isolated. Camp SIBsational provides those siblings a fun experience with peers who also understand how they are feeling better than anybody else. While not a therapeutic camp, SIBsational has mental health professionals on hand at all times to help if needed. If you would love to hear more about this camping experience, we welcome you to contact us at any time.
Open to youth 5 to 17, free of charge, and 100% volunteer operated, Camp Hope in Claflin, Kansas and Camp SIBsational in Elmdale, Kansas (and the over 150 volunteers giving countless hours annually to ensure Camp Hope, Camp SIBsational and KyMel can remain a “home away from home” for our campers) continue to celebrate and appreciate the small-to-great moments offered in this world and for me, personally lends to a deeper understanding that God’s strength is in us, with us and all around us.
Janelle, thank you for sharing about these camps and the incredible impact they have on kids. I appreciate your willingness to vulnerably share about your spirituality and life experiences as we are all made better for it.
This week the goal is for us to share about Camp Hope and Camp SIBsational with someone else and if you feel compelled donate or go to their website and volunteer.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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