For kids battling serious and sometimes terminal diseases, it’s challenging to find a moment of respite to rejuvenate and recharge. “Fun” isn’t always an easy thing to manage for ill children and their families. Kids need to play. Kids should play. They shouldn’t have to fight disease.
Sometimes a referee needs to call a timeout.
Paul Newman and Norman Schwarzkopf understood that on a fundamental level. In 1996 the duo founded Camp Boggy Creek, a sprawling Shangri-La tucked into Central Florida where kids dealing with chronic or terminal illnesses come from all over the state to play all week long, free for a while from their usual routine. Here, the only responsibility is to simply be a kid.
“These kids are often isolated when they’re going through surgeries and hospital stays,” explains June Clark, president and CEO. “They can’t go to a ‘regular’ camp like other children because of their medications, treatments or possible emergencies they may have. So when they come to Boggy, it’s empowering for them, because they’re able to do things they don’t normally get to do.”
The 232-acre facility offers swimming, boating, fishing, horseback riding, indoor and outdoor games, archery, woodshop, a theatre and woodworking and craft shops. Camp Boggy also boasts an on-site, state-of-the-art medical center, with a 24-hour team of volunteer doctors and medical professionals.
Camp provides as much relief for the parents as the children. They know their kids are well taken care of, and they have the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings and talk to other parents and volunteer counselors—many of whom were once campers here—and share their experiences.
“It’s really just so heartwarming to see how good it makes them all feel,” Clark says.
Boggy Creek is funded by donations, grants, sponsorships and corporate partners, which enables them to welcome kids free of charge, lifting yet another burden from families. It’s a labor of love that honors the original intent of its creators.
“He was heavily involved here,” Clark remembers of Newman. “He’d walk the property before it was built and came back every year to interact and help encourage the kids. We still feel his presence every day.”
Newman and Schwarzkopf left behind a nurturing, empowering legacy to cheer these kids on and give them the chance to do what they’re meant to do: Play. Get silly. Have fun. Get a moment away from the fight.
For more information about Boggy Creek Camp, visit www.boggycreek.org.