b'hardships, and their need for emotional cer often becomes the sole focus of a other siblings can experience a terrible impacts their gifts will have on these kidshealing and connection with others who familys time and energy. sense of loss and connection. for the rest of their lives.understand their journey has become Siblings are one of the most unrec- Suchafamilydynamicnaturally Mercer herself brings considerable en-increasingly clear, noted Mercer. ognized victims of the disease, Mercer causes resentment among siblings who ergy, enthusiasm and passion to the CareFor families who lose a child, there said. Many feel they became invisible dont have cancer. Families that have a Camps cause, along with a lifelong inter-are also special camps that include be- the day their brother or sister was diag- child with cancer also have extremely est in community service that stretchesreavement programs. nosed with cancer. It is no ones fault. high divorce rates. This places an addi- back to her membership in many serv-Aside from the financial impacts of No parent is equipped to deal with this tional emotional burden on the child ice-relatedorganizationssuchasKeycancertreatmentandtheemotional journey. They naturally focus on the with cancer, explained Mercer. Club and Future Leaders of America instress on everyone, the child with can- child who is sick, but in the process, Many of these children feel guilty for high school. Like her family, she shares ahaving destroyed their family, Mercer dedication to volunteerism that borderssaid. A common belief is, If I hadnt on obsession, serving over a hundred dif-gotten cancer, my parents would still be ferent charities in recent years.together.With so much emotional disruptiontaking place, cancer camps can provideenormous relief and support for chil-dren with cancer and their siblings.These kids need a support systemandatcamp,theycanconnectwithother kids who are going through whatthey have been going through, she said.Mercer added that new research isemerging that shows nearly all childrenwhohaveattendedtheseoncology Jennifer Mercer with Miracle Marnie atcamps say that attending such camps is the Cardinal/Ottawa South KOA Holiday.the most important thing that has con-tributed to their emotional growth, giv- A graduate of Montana State Univer-ing them the information and tools they sity-Billingswithadoublemajorinneed to become more resilient. business management and marketing,They learn so many essential rela- Mercer has a track record of success intional and emotional coping skills at multiple industries. She ran car rentalthese camps, she said. companies during her college years andMercer, for her part, is developing later landed jobs marketing cardiovas-materials such as Fundraising Toolkits cular medications for Pfizer and Novar-to make it easier for a campground or tis pharmaceuticals. Prior to becomingbusiness to do a Care Camps fundraiser. thefirstdirectorofdevelopmentforShe is also meeting with existing donors Care Camps, she was the executive di-to thank them for their continued sup- rector and fundraiser for a large non-port of Care Camps and working to re- profit in Montana, the Historic Billingscruit new campgrounds and businesses Depot, a complex of historic buildingsin the outdoors industry. including a beautiful train depot thatThis charity was created by a group serves as the communitys most popu-of KOA campground owners who recog- lar special events venue.nized the need and chose to take action Mercers latest challenge, of course, isand do something to help these kids find of a completely different nature, but shehealing outside of a hospital. They have isalreadyusingeverythingshehaspositively impacted hundreds of thou- learned to help Care Camps expand itssands of children and families because of fundraising capabilities.their work. Today, we know the needs of Mercer is working to encourage boththese kids are bigger than any one com- KOA and non-KOA campgrounds alike,pany, Mercer said. These children need along with other state campground in-the entire camping and outdoor indus- dustry associations, to support the Caretrys support to find healing. I wish every- Campfundraisingeffortsbecausetheone could understand what incredible camps serve children in every commu-nity,andKOAaffiliatedcampgroundscannot raise sufficient funds on their own.KOAPresidentandCEOTobyORourke underscored this point in astatementtoWoodallsCampgroundManagement.Kampgrounds of America has beendeeply involved in KOA Care Campssince the charity was created by theKOA Owners Association in the early1980s, she said, adding, Our owners,campersandcorporatestaffhaveraised millions of dollars to send thou-sands of deserving kids to these special-izedsummercamps.Butinrecentyears, as more and more children aresuccessfully treated for their cancers,and as survival rates have climbed, theneed for the camps has escalated farbeyond any one organizations ability toraise the needed funds. Wed love to see this deserving causebe adopted by other companies in theoutdoor industry, she added. Thesecamps are an integral part of the treat-ment program for these children andtheir families. They need the healingthat the outdoors provides. And I thinkany outdoor business that gets involvedwithCareCampswillfindtheygetmuch more back than they give.Jennifer Mercer can be reached atjmercer@koacarecamps.org. WCM18 -May 2020Woodalls Campground Management'