Eau Claire (WQOW) - A number of different things may come to mind when you think of the word "camp", especially on a day when the sun is shining. You may think of a tent, sleeping bag, and some hiking. Friday, a special camp held in Eau Claire, put the focus on healing.
"It's a journey that changes your life forever," says Melissa Rauch, an attendee at Joshua's Camp. Her daughter, Amelia, was diagnosed with cancer when she was just three years old.
Rauch says, "When our family was told that Amelia had leukemia, It was unreal, it was like a dream, like a lie."
Three years later, Amelia is treatment free. "There's been so much along the way, I mean her treatment included two and a half years of chemo every single day," says Rauch.
Hundreds of doctor's visits can take an emotional toll on any family, that's where Joshua's Camp comes in. "There are a lot of camps where children can go with various diseases, but I know of only three in the entire Unites States where the whole family can go, so that makes us kind of unique," says camp director John Finney.
This weekend nine families, with children being treated for cancer, gathered at the Metropolis Resort for the camp's second retreat.
Finney says many of the families come from the same clinic but don't even know it until they meet at camp. He says, "After our last camp I got an email from the oncology nurse and she said, "What did you do to these families?" She said, usually when I walk out there into the waiting room one family will be over here, another over there and they're all sitting by themselves, quietly going through their lives. And I walk out there and they're all together!"
Nothing about having a sick child is easy, but these parents say the support they get at Joshua's Camp is one part of the healing process. "This is the hand you're dealt and you play it as best you know how to and you look for your friends for support and you look for your faith as support and you just kind of rely on each other to get through it," says camp attendee Dave Krause.
Rauch says, "Having that togetherness with the other parents was amazing, that was the biggest thing that helped heal me, was knowing that we're all going through this. We can all get through it together."
Families pay nothing to attend Joshua's Camp. All the work is done by volunteers and the camp operates on donations and grants. Plans are already underway for an annual reunion picnic in July and a camp for single parents this fall.