Kayaking, fishing and the challenge course were a few of Jacob Keys’ favorite things to do at Camp Dream Street, he said. Pottery was also pretty cool.
Camp Dream Street provided an opportunity Keys, 19, of Cedarville had the privilege to pursue after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006. A We Care Foundation program, Camp Dream Street has been enabling children ages 6 to 16 throughout Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma and southern Missouri who have been diagnosed with cancer and related blood-forming diseases to attend camp each year.
Healthy siblings of campers also can attend camp if space is available, said Maureen Didion, executive director of the We Care Foundation.
The 28th annual Camp Dream Street is scheduled for July 1-7 at Subiaco Academy in Subiaco, Didion said. Subiaco has been very accommodating, she added, asking Didion what they can do for her.
"We love Camp Dream Street," Harmonie Moore said.
If it was not for Camp Dream Street, children like her son, Timothy Moore, would not have been able to attend camp. When Timothy, who will be 10 in June, first attended the camp, he was still undergoing chemotherapy, she said. He was taking oral chemotherapy, but most camps would not have allowed him to participate while taking the medication. A nurse administered the drug while the boy was at camp.
Timothy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in June 2012 at age 4, Harmonie Moore said. He was having low-grade fevers, and the doctors kept telling her all was fine. Her mother’s instinct kept sending her back to the doctor’s office, not allowing her to accept "fine" as an answer, she said.
Receiving the diagnosis “was like a whirlwind,” Harmonie Moore said. Today, Timothy is in remission. He no longer takes chemotherapy, she said.
“He is high functioning (and) has no setbacks.”
Timothy Moore “is so excited about camp every year,” Harmonie Moore said. He makes new friends and sees old ones, she said. He returns home dog tired because he played so hard at camp.
When asked what he liked about camp, Timothy said “everything, especially swimming.”
“He loves camp,” Harmonie Moore said. He enjoys the fishing, canoeing, archery and kayaking, she said. He has also enjoyed making pottery and other arts and crafts at camp.
Photography will be offered for older campers this year, Didion said. The We Care Foundation received a grant from the Kampgrounds of America (KOA) to purchase cameras for the class.
Since Jacob Keys was in sixth grade, he has attended Camp Dream Street, he said. Once he turned 16, he graduated from the camp, and he now attends as a camp counselor. It is actually pretty fun, he said. Taking care of campers and making sure they have fun is his role as counselor.
“Basically, we’re kids with responsibilities,” Keys said of his role as counselor.
In return for volunteering as a counselor, Keys received a scholarship during his first semester of college that paid for the computer he needed for his online classes, and during his second semester, he was able to purchase some of the books he needed.
In May 2017, Keys graduated from Cedarville High School, he said. One year later, in May 2018 — thanks to the Western Arkansas Technical Center program which allowed him an early release during high school to attend college classes at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith — he received an associate’s degree in welding, he said. He will be continuing his education there and pursuing an automotive degree this fall.
We Care Foundation sponsors a variety of programs to help children ages 6 to 16 and their families year-round with non-medical support, referral, educational programs and crisis intervention, Didion said.
In addition to offering Camp Dream Street and providing college scholarships, a family camp is also available for families whose children are too sick to attend Camp Dream Street, she said. Families spend Labor Day weekend at Devil’s Den State Park in West Fork. Each family has their own cabin, and they plan their own activities, Didion said. Priority is given to families who have a child who is under the age of 6 or too ill to attend Camp Dream Street.
Families of children with cancer or related illnesses often face financial difficulties, Didion said. We Care helps families by providing clothing and supplies that might be needed for camp or college, she said. Anyone interested in supporting the foundation to better assist the children they serve may contact Didion at 782-8822 or by email at email@example.com. The foundation’s website is WeCareFound.org.
Camp Dream Street provides parents with “the only break they might have” from taking care of their sick children, Didion said.
“It is one of the funnest places I have ever been,” Timothy Moore said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the date Jacob Keys was first diagnosed with leukemia.