BRANDON – Young children fighting cancer and blood disorders are invited to be this year’s faces of courage at the 12th annual overnight Santa’s Workshop Weekend at Rotary’s Camp Florida in Brandon.
“These kids are faced with their mortality way before anybody should have to think about such things,” said Faces of Courage Foundation founder and chief executive officer Peggie D. Sherry, who herself fought breast cancer twice. She has been cancer free for 11 years. “We allow them to come to camp and just be kids for the weekend.”
Up to 80 children ages 2 through 12 can be accommodated at the lakefront campsite for the free Santa’s Workshop Weekend, with six nurses and two doctors in attendance around the clock. Faces of Courage is presenting the Dec. 6-8 camp with support and volunteers from the Tampa Carrollwood Rotary Club.
Activities include canoeing, kayaking, archery, tie-dyeing, face painting, ice cream socials, a petting zoo and a “pop hop,” which involves covering the Leonard Hall’s floor with bubble wrap and letting the kids stomp all over it. There’s also an opportunity to shower shaving cream onto a helpless counselor wrapped in toilet paper. And for campers from each of the six cabins to build for their respective counselors a cardboard boat to man and race in the pool.
Siblings are invited to the camp as well, both in recognition of their unique station in life and to give their parents a weekend break.
“It’s an even playing field at camp. Everybody gets to do everything,” Sherry said. “It’s not just the sick child getting attention. The well child gets the same gifts, meets the same celebrities. As for the parents, they always have to keep an eye on the sick child. This gives them a chance to take the weekend off without interruption.”
Returning this year as camp celebrities are Travis Lofland, of the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” reality television show, and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Dave Andreychuk. The Rough Riders of Tampa Bay will be back with a Teddy Bear Run, handing out teddy bears and beads to the campers.
Lofland, whose show features the real-life adventures of five Alaskan crabbing boats in the Bering Sea, will be at the workshop to fish with the campers. Andreychuk will be joined by the Lightning’s street hockey team.
“They come out and dress the kids up in pads and let them play hockey in the street, with Dave Andreychuk looking over their shoulders and helping them,” Sherry said.
Registration for the December camp is on a first-come, first-served basis, with both an early registration for new campers and a determined effort to ensure veteran campers have a chance to return as well.
Faces of Courage holds other camps throughout the year as well: in May, for minority women with cancer, and in September, for all women with cancer. In June, a camp for teens with cancer will be reinstituted, Sherry said. The group also schedules day outings, including special invitations to Bucs and Lightning games.
For information, and to register for Santa’s Workshop Weekend, Dec. 6-8, contact Sherry at (813) 948-7478. Or email her at [email protected] Visit the group online at www.facesofcourage.org. Rotary’s Camp Florida is at 1915 Camp Florida Road.