FAIRFIELD — Camp Rainbow Gold is in the final week of its 37th oncology summer camp for kids battling cancer. The last group being hosted for the summer is their youth group.
Already these kids are facing a fight against a horrible disease, and now COVID-19 has added a whole extra level of keeping them safe.
Camp officials throughout the summer have been doing the best they can to ensure the safety of staff and kids with mask-wearing, social distancing and practicing hygiene.
“The kids are in pods, we have isolation cabins, we have social distancing," said Camp Rainbow Gold CEO Elizabeth Lizberg. "We have worked hard to make sure that we are keeping them safe.”
However, COVID-19 has not been the only challenge the staff has faced this summer. Camp Rainbow Gold held its first summer camp on its newly owned property at Hidden Paradise Campgrounds in Fairfield, and camp officials have been learning as they go.
“Camp Rainbow Gold has been around for 37 years," said Lizberg. "This is our first year at Hidden Paradise, our own property. Although we are learning and having experiences of our own of being facility owners, it has been absolutely magical.”
Both the campers and staff say they are are ecstatic about the new location and the new moments and memories that can be created. Shera Rowley first attended this camp with her daughter after she was diagnosed with cancer almost a decade ago.
For the past six years, Shera has been volunteering at the camp after witnessing the amount of fun her kids had when attending and is thrilled to be along for the ride in the camp's new chapter.
“This is a place of healing," said Rowley. "It’s a place of growth. There is so many opportunities that are going to come and be available. That we just, I don’t know, I feel like the sky is the limit now.”
While many things are changing at Camp Rainbow Gold, one thing that hasn't is having a staff of medical professionals on scene and at the ready in case of emergencies, especially since some of the kids are still going through treatment.
“We are here to ensure there is nothing going on with them because if something were to go wrong, they have a fever, then we have to enact all the protocols that they would have to do in the ER,” said Megan Seaman, a volunteer nurse for the camp.
Now that the camp is nearing its conclusion for the season, despite the challenges, the entire staff is overjoyed they were able to host the kids and provide them with this experience and let them make lifetime memories.
“It really makes it all worth it," said Seaman. "It makes me so happy to be a part of it and to be able to contribute to this experience that they are able to have.”
Rowley feels the same way, especially since the camp had to be held virtually last year due to all the COVID restrictions.
“When we didn’t have it last year, it just wasn’t the same," said Rowley. "So to be here this year with all the safety and all the protocols it’s just so amazing, and you can just see these kids so full of life...and they need it.”
Lizberg said the support from the community has made all of this a possibility.
“The power of being a volunteer-run camp and having community support making it happen, it’s truly a blessing to witness love being visible,” said Lizberg.
Camp Rainbow Gold hopes they can soon return to having larger capacity groups on-site and are in the process of making renovations to accommodate more families and kids by the summer of 2023.