Something happened to Abby Sharpless when she was 7 years old that should never happen to any child. She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Abby’s dad Robin, a fixture in the gun industry, and I have made it a point to catch up with each other on career and family news for years. When he told me about Abby’s diagnosis in 2002, I felt shocked and helpless.
Today, Abby is a busy 14-year-old. At 7 years out of surgery and 5 years out of treatment, under the protocol this young lady is considered a survivor. And by God this little bundle of determination is exactly that. The road to cancer recovery is an unthinkable test even for an adult. It’s hard to imagine how a child could handle such an ordeal.
Abby was one of a small group of kids who were trial patients for a new protocol of chemo drugs. Prior to her group it was not considered a cancer that had a good outcome. However, after two surgeries that removed her entire right frontal lobe and two years of intensive treatment, Abby is still happily with us. She will have some lifelong endocrine issues due to radiation treatment. But the teenager I talked to on the phone last weekend was full of vim and vigor and the joy in her father’s voice was unmistakable.
Medical issues aside, the psyche of a young cancer survivor also takes a beating. Fortunately, Robin heard about Camp Good Days and Special Times through the pediatric cancer center where Abby was treated. Camp Good Days has allowed Abby to experience some of the greatest weeks of her life; meeting kids just like her and helping her realize she is not so different.
“I made a lot of new friends,” Abby reported. “And I stuck my neck out from my hole in the ground.”
Abby said she’s shared her camp experience with Nick, a friend she went through treatment with and enjoys performing skits with another friend, Rachel, at the Good Days Camp talent show. Abby clearly loves to play with the camp pets and enjoys the arts and crafts and wood working. Then, there were the big events she experienced such as riding in a race car at Watkins Glen at 130 miles per hour and taking her turn at flying an airplane with a group of other campers. Abby’s big sister Bethany also attended the Camp’s special program for children who have a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with cancer or sickle cell anemia.
“Bethany is a great kid but when one child has the disease the other’s life is changed dramatically and forever,” Robin said. “Bethany credits her weeks at camp as giving her a great understanding and a pool of friends who she can relate to even now that she has grown.”
Camp Good Days and Special Times is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families whose lives have been touched by cancer through summer camping experiences and year-round events and activities. The women’s oncology programs, for example, offer a variety of experiences for women who have dealt with cancer. Programs range from arts and crafts to adventure activities such as fishing, boating, swimming, rock climbing, ropes course and other outdoor experiences. See more about Camp Good Days at www.campgooddays.org
The best part of this camp, which is located on the shores of Keuka Lake in upstate New York, is all the activities and events are offered free of charge for participants. Thus volunteerism and fund raising are critical components for driving these programs.
Robin, who is now executive vice president for Redding Reloading, wanted to give something back to Camp Good Days. He’s taken the bull by the horns by designing and creating a pink baseball hat with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated to Camp Good Days and Special Times women’s oncology program. I asked Robin why would Redding Reloading, a company best known for manufacturing reloading equipment for metallic rifle and handgun cartridges, want to support women with cancer?
Bethany Sharpless models the Redding pink hat.
“It is simple, the family of people who make up our company have all been touched by this terrible disease,” Robin said. “As such Redding Reloading Equipment designed our pink hat to help in a small way to ease the suffering and the lifelong difficulties associated with cancer. We teamed with Camp Good Days and Special Times because of their great work and outdoor activities focus. 100 percent of the profits from this special Redding Reloading hat will go to the women’s oncology programs at Camp Good Days.
“I know of the Camp’s good works from a very personal experience. While Camp Good Days was created for children, over its 30 years camp leaders have seen needs and added programs for a variety of other cancer victims. The women’s oncology program was chosen for our pink hat, and I hope we at Redding can develop other special hats to benefit the other programs the camp makes available.”
It is simple. Robin and the others at Redding Reloading are good folks who care. Show you care, too. Call Redding Reloading to order your pink hat today at 607-753-3331. Hats cost $15 plus shipping but the chance to contribute to recovering cancer patients is priceless.