Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Roundup River Ranch | A Grateful Harvest

Oh Roundup River Ranch....how you have my heart!  Many years ago, the first time my son was going through Chemo for NF2 related tumors, he was asked if he wanted to attend Roundup River Ranch. A free camp for kids with life threatening illness. He didn't.

After, much build up and cajoling from the nurses and me that he go. He attended grudgingly. Ok...so I had to almost drag him kicking and screaming to the bus that left Children's Hospital Colorado for the camp in the mountains.

I knew he was in good hands with the great medical care at the camp and the fun activities they had planned. But, I have to tell you, it was one long week for me worrying if he was having a good time or hating it as much as he thought he would.

A week later I picked him up, with great anticipation....and.....HE LOVED IT! For the 45 minute ride home, I didn't say a word as he talked non - stop (and if you know Ryan, talking is not something he does a lot) about the camp, the kids, the counselor's (including the nurse that urged us to go) the activities, the beads he got, the fears he conquered, the friends he made (that had the same thoughts and fears he did and the feelings of being different). I truly cried silent tears as he told me his stories of camp (and still am today as I write this!).

Two more years he went to camp, and each time I thought there was no way his experience could rival that first year. I was wrong. Each year, the ride home was filled with non-stop talk of new stories, new experiences and new friends.  Experiences like conquering a fear of the climbing wall. Finding a love of archery with the compound bows they have at camp. And my favorite....seeing the stars for the very first time.

You see, with Ryan's compromised vision there is too much light pollution for him to see the stars. One evening a counselor took the kids from his cabin on a short night hike with glow sticks. It was a dark, clear night and Ryan saw the stars for the very first time, including the constellations. A fact we didn't know until recently, and his very favorite memory of camp.

So, when Roundup River Ranch staff asked if we might want to spend the weekend at camp for a fundraiser to have Ryan tell his stories and sing at the dinner event with some other campers, we wholeheartedly agreed. And, what an amazing weekend it was!

Since Ryan had always taken the bus back and forth to RRR the years he went, we had never seen the camp. We had been told it was more like a resort than a camp and that it was! Especially, all decked out for the fundraiser!

The event raised $1.2 million for the camp and was so fun to see and photograph! We were treated to great food and got to experience just a taste of what Ryan enjoyed the few years he attended camp. The wonderful people, the comfy beds, the activities, and most of all the fun! And...Ryan got a glimpse of the stars for the second time in his life.

Oh, Roundup River Ranch.....how you have my heart.....and Ryan's!

Note: Roundup River Ranch is one camp of similar camps around the country started by Paul Newman years ago.  A portion of the Paul Newman food products help fund the free camp, as well as donations from the fundraiser we attended, and various fundraisers throughout the year. You can donate here  .  Camp is always free for the campers that attend as many families are battling the costs of medical bills for their children.

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