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franklin county times

Rainbow of hope

By Staff
CAMP RAINBOW April Allen shows off her Mardi Gras beads, hula hoops and crown from her past visits to Camp Rainbow, a summer camp for children with cancer. Each summer the camp has a different theme; past themes have included Winter Wonderland and Mardi Gras. PHOTO BY CARISA MCCAIN / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
July 20, 2002
When April Allen is too old to be a camper, she plans to become a counselor at Camp Rainbow in Morton.
This year will be April's fifth to attend the summer camp for children with cancer. April is the 11-year-old daughter of Wilma and Gary Allen of Stonewall
April is one of many Mississippi children with cancer who attend the free summer camp. This year's camp is set for July 28 through July 31.
The four-day camp takes place each year at Roosevelt State Park. The camp is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and funded through contributions.
April's cancer
Histiocytosis is a rare, cancer-like disease similar to leukemia. It causes cells in the immune system to reproduce and sometimes spread through the body.
The out-of-control cells then can attack glands, organs and even bones.
April has undergone chemotherapy and has been in remission since 1994. However, her disease has damaged her pituitary gland to the point that she has developed a type of diabetes.
She continues to get check ups at the Children's Cancer Clinic at University Medical Center in Jackson. And she continues to look forward to her days at Camp Rainbow.
Wilma, her mom, said April relates well to the other children at Camp Rainbow because many of them have experienced the same things she has in her treatment.
Rainbow Camp
Michele Thames, director of Rainbow Camp, said the camp helps children put their illness behind them. For the most part, cancer isn't even discussed.
But, she said, child life specialists and social workers are on staff to talk about it if needed.
Thames became director last year. She began working at the camp in 1997 as a volunteer childlife specialist, working with campers' psychological, social and emotional needs.
The camp offers arts and crafts, swimming, horseback riding, fishing, dances, a talent show and a family fun day on the last day. Thames said parents feel their child's needs are met.
Bittersweet memory
The camp has had its somber moments. Teen-age campers have planted trees every year to honor other campers who had passed away during the previous year.
Fortunately, Thames said, this year is different. This year's tree will honor all campers because no one has died since last year's session.
For Wilma Allen, she said she is happy to see her daughter make new friends every year at the camp. She said that April has even grown attached to certain camp counselors.
Wilma said the camp lets children see doctors and nurses in a different environment, as "real people" participating in the camp activities.
Just the facts
Here is a look at Camp Rainbow, a four-day summer camp for children with cancer. The camp is at Roosevelt State Park in Morton.
For more information or to learn about next year's camp, contact the American Cancer Society at (800) 227-2345 or visit its Web site at http://www.cancer.org.
The sponsor: The camp is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, Mid-South Division Inc., and is funded through public contributions.
The staff: The camp is run by pediatric oncology doctors, nurses and counselors. Its director is a school teacher who is a child life specialist.
The cost: The camp is free for children with cancer. July 1 was the deadline to apply for this year's camp set for July 28-31.
Extra slots: The camp still has a few openings for this year. Interested families should call (800) 227-2345.