EAGLE RIVER - "It's the families that have to deal with the cancer. It affects the whole family, a lot more than people really realize," says Richard Lemke, Camp Angel's coordinator.|
He knows the impact cancer has on a family: he lost his wife to cancer.
Lemke volunteers for Angel on My Shoulder, a non-profit Lolly Rose founded.
She started it in 1995 in memory of her husband who died of cancer.
The foundation runs free camps for kids between the ages of 8 and 18.
"They're weekend retreats. They're support camps for kids living with people that have cancer, or they've lost a loved one to cancer. That would be a parent, grandparent, or sibling," says Rose.
Lemke's three sons went to the camp.
Like many campers, they came back as counselors.
The camps have continued through the generosity of volunteers, like the Strauss family.
They own Pirates Hideaway in Eagle River.
It provides family-friendly pirate tours on the Eagle River Chain of Lakes.
After 5 years, it has become a staple in the Camp Angel experience.
"We go out for 45-minutes. We enjoy popcorn and lemonade with the kids. We take a ride. We see the eagles. It's a different perspective out on the water versus your normal camp atmosphere. We do tattoos with the kids, we decorate t-shirts, and they just have a blast," says Pirates Hideaway owner Steve Strauss.
Activities like riding on the pirate ship gives Camp Angel kids the opportunity to be kids again.
"It gives the kids an opportunity to get away from the cancer and enjoy the whole weekend and not have to deal with it," adds Lemke.
So what are some of the campers' favorite memories from this weekend?
"I've met some really great people. They've become my friends," says camper Moria Sheehan.
"Probably just going around. Sailing on a pirate ship. How often do you get to do that?" says camper Tyler Foydik.
The campers may only be kids, but their strength and grace throughout these difficult times inspires.
"If anybody else is going through problems with people who have cancer, I highly recommend this camp," Foydik adds.
"I just want to say to all those who have cancer, good luck," says Alissondra Quatsoe.