By Elizabeth Lanier
With football season quickly approaching, there’s no time for these athletes to waste, but there’s no doubt that the Georgia Bulldogs did not spend their Wednesday afternoon wasted. In fact, their afternoon was spent doing quite the opposite. The University of Georgia’s Football Team paid a visit to the campers of Camp Sunshine at Camp Twin Lakes (CTL) last Wednesday, June 28,
Camp Twin Lakes, located in Rutledge, is not like most summer camps. According to the CTL website, “Camp Twin Lakes has provided life-changing camp experiences to Georgia’s children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and other life challenges. We serve more than 9,100 campers through week-long summer camps and weekend retreats at three medically-supportive and fully accessible campsites, day camps, and hospital-based Camp-To-Go programs.”
One of the week-long summer camps that attends Twin Lakes is Camp Sunshine, a camp for children who are fighting (or have fought) cancer. Displayed on their website are two sentences that explain what this particular camp is all about: “We are families dealing with childhood cancer who come together to share, grow and find hope. We are passionate volunteers, who give and receive so much more in return.”
To the staff at Sunshine, the most important part of their week at CTL is ensuring that their campers are having the time of their lives. One of the many ways they achieve this goal is by inviting the UGA Football Team over to meet the kids and play different games with them. The campers, of course, are beyond excited to meet the players; however, the Bulldogs are just as, if not more, enthusiastic about meeting them. In fact, Camp Sunshine has a special place in the heart of Head Coach, Kirby Smart.
When Smart visited Wednesday, he explained the importance Camp Sunshine has had on his family, specifically his brother, Karl Smart. Karl was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 16, and attended Camp Twin Lakes as a Camp Sunshine camper. Smart read a letter his mother sent to the board of Camp Sunshine when his brother was a camper there. The letter explained how grateful they were that such a place existed and even featured Karl’s point of view: “I asked Karl would you tell me what Camp Sunshine means to you so I can relay it to these people and he said, ‘well it’s like they gave me a reason to live, a reason to keep going. It’s so encouraging to be with people who can understand what you’re going through. It’s great to be there with someone who’s older than you are that lived with what you’ve got, and you can look at them and see they did it… so I know I can do it too.’”
Although the summer months are busy for the Bulldogs, they have spent the past decade taking time out of their busy schedules to come play dodge ball, shoot hoops, and throw the football with Camp Sunshine.