Spending the last three summers volunteering at a cancer camp for children has confirmed an early calling on junior Autumn Boss’s heart to be a nurse.
Boss, of Lansing, Illinois, is a nursing major at Trinity. She just finished her third annual week serving as the companion of 11-year-old Alexis, a cancer survivor and camper at Camp Quality, a special experience for juvenile cancer patients held each year at Camp Manitoqua in Frankfort, Illinois.
Each camper is assigned a companion who not only helps with basic needs but also becomes a friend and mentor. The 80 campers and their companions enjoy the usual camp activities, such as raft races, swimming, crafts, and games. But it is more than just fun; for both camper and companion, it is life and heart changing.
“After experiencing camp, I can’t take life for granted,” said Boss. She explained that the children’s attitudes about their “normal” are astonishing. Boss recalled one child showing her how she gives herself an injection every day. It was a startling illustration of the untimely maturity exhibited by these children. Some have to leave the camp throughout the week for chemotherapy treatments or other procedures.
Boss’s early inspiration to pursue nursing and eventually to serve at Camp Quality has been her aunt LeAnn Kooyenga, a pediatric oncology nurse at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, and a regular volunteer at the camp.
Although Boss’s first camp experience didn’t solidify her interest in pediatric oncology, she experienced a simple but profound moment one evening this summer. “It’s hard to describe, but I was watching Alexis and all the kids swimming, and I simply thought, ‘they’re alive.’”
Camp Quality exists through donations and the dedicated work of its volunteers. Boss hopes more people will feel moved to help. Visit www.campqualityillinois.net or call 708.895.8311.