Camp CARE launches another year of fun for campers

By Erica Oglesby

Baseball players from West Mecklenburg High School and Coul-Oak Little League helped campers load their luggage onto buses. Pictured are (front row) Blake Hollar with Coul-Oak Little League; (second row) West Mecklenburg High School baseball players Phillip Barker, Patrick O’Brien, Nick McGee, Logan Duncan, Langdon Rawls, (third row) Dalton Shaw and Matt Davenport. (Photo by Erica Oglesby)

Camp CARE kicked off its 26th annual trip to Lake Lure on Monday, June 27, leaving from Charlotte Catholic High School with 170 campers ranging in age from 6 to 17.

Not your average summer camp, Camp CARE (Cancer Ain’t Really the End) strives to give its campers, all of whom have been diagnosed with childhood cancer, a normal week of fun in the North Carolina mountains.

Anxious goodbyes from parents could be heard throughout the crowd as hugs and kisses were given to children eager to start the week’s activities.
Unique to this year’s departure, members from West Mecklenburg High School’s baseball team and Coul-Oak Little League in the Mountain Island area were present to help campers load their luggage onto the buses.

The two groups also presented and a check to Camp Care for $4,345. West Mecklenburg High School raised $3,245 at its first Strike Out Cancer game this past spring against Charlotte Catholic, and Coul-Oak Little League raised $1,100 at its home run derby on June 4 at Shuffletown Park.

Joey Acquora, 6, from Matthew,s is battling nueroblastoma, a hard tumor cancer. This was his first camping trip, and thanks to Camp CARE he got to take his big sister, Annie, 8, with him. Joey was looking forward to experiencing camp life, especially the zip line, and was eager to get on the bus and get going.

Like the rest of the parents, Maggie Acquore knew she wouldn’t be able to speak to her son or daughter for the remainder of the week and was anxious but excited to know her children were about to embark on a week of fun.

“For both of them, I am nervous, but I am really excited,” she said. “It is affording him an opportunity to get away.”

First diagnosed in December 2007, Joey relapsed in September 2010 and had been confined indoors until May. The thought of her son being able to get away and have some normal 6-year-old fun made Maggie smile.

“This is exciting!” she said.

Also heading off to Lake Lure for the week, Wesley Thornburg, 14, was making her fifth trip to Camp CARE.

“We have something to do all the time. There is never a boring moment,” she said.

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in 2006, Wesley has been in remission for three years. Wesley’s mom, Gina Thornburg, says the camp is something her daughter talks about the other 51 weeks of the year.

“She looks forward to it every single year,” Thornburg said.

Wesley particularly enjoys playing in the lake and interacting with the younger children while getting to catch up with old friends she doesn’t get to see during the rest of the year.

Knowing her camper days will be over once she turns 18, Wesley plans to keep going to Camp CARE each year as a counselor.

Once at camp, the children enjoyed participating in a variety of activities, including tubing on the lake, crafts, a zip line, rock climbing, an un-talent show and a memorial service for any past campers who have lost their battle with cancer.

Operating on an all-volunteer staff, Camp CARE pays for each child and a sibling to attend its annual camp. Nurses and doctors also are on hand during the week to administer any medications and treatments children may need.

The camp’s primary source of funding comes from its annual 5K and walk-a-thon, which will be held this year Sept. 10, a Saturday, at McAlpine Creek Park. Registration for the event is available at www.campcare.org. Cost to participate is $22 for adults and $15 for students in grades kindergarten through 12th.

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