Camp Star Trails Veteran Tries Her Hand as Counselor

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start_trails_campers.jpgBy Will Fitzgerald, Staff Writer, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Summer is here. For kids, this means freedom -- a chance to run wild and prepare for the annual ritual of summer camp. But for kids with cancer, a trek to summer camp can often be a difficult experience due to health concerns.   

Each year, profits generated from the Children's Art Project (CAP) and the sale of items featuring the artwork of young MD Anderson patients support special camps that cater to kids with cancer. Camp Star Trails, an overnight summer camp in Washington County, Texas, emphasizes normal childhood experiences plus a whole lot of fun.

I got a chance to speak with Megan Evans, 17, who was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in early 2000 and is not only one of CAP's famous designers, but a seven-year camp veteran. This year, Megan is looking forward to attending Camp Star Trails as a new counselor. "I got involved because I love helping kids," Megan says. "I understand the camper's point of view because everything at camp is made for kids with cancer."

Camp_Star_trails_Megan.jpgMegan is quick to point out that her new role is subject to a bit more responsibility. She says if the campers create too much noise in the cabin, it's her duty to be adult-like and quiet everyone down. Jokingly, she adds, that if the campers are anything like her brothers, she may be doing a lot of that.

One of the great benefits to the younger campers is that Megan knows first-hand how they feel and where many have been. Cancer is tough, but the friendships and support formed by a simple understanding, between camper and counselor, create a unique environment.
"I think it helps to meet someone who has also gone through what I went through," Megan says.

Still, at the end of the day, fun is the name of the game. If smiles were a currency, camp would be the Federal Reserve.

"I love horseback riding and rock climbing," Megan says. "This year, I'm determined to get on the trapeze and the zip-line."

If you thought a zip-line might be difficult for a camper with bone cancer, Megan reassures that it's not. If someone can't get to the top of the zip-line, the camp has a special hoist to easily bring them up so they can enjoy the activity.

This year, 150 kids from across the country, including many from Texas, will get to experience this special place. It's through the Children's Art Project and its commitment that allows each camper to enjoy the moment. In Megan's words, "Camp makes my summer. I'm counting down the days."

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