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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of May 1 - 7, 2002


Amazing things happen at Camp Rainbow Gold

Kids with cancer at Cathedral Pines

Express Staff Writer

Summer camps of every shape and form provide wonderful experiences for young people in the central mountains of Idaho.

But there is one camp that has a special mission.

It’s Camp Rainbow Gold, where youngsters with cancer go for a week that often changes their entire outlook toward their disease and toward the way they relate to their community.

"We always say, if you have a week, we’ll change your life," said Sharon Buckle of Twin Falls, the American Cancer Society’s camp manager for Camp Rainbow Gold.

This year’s Camp Rainbow Gold takes place Sunday, Aug. 4 through Friday, Aug. 9 at Cathedral Pines campground north of Ketchum near Easley and just south of Baker Creek.

Idaho’s American Cancer Society chapter in conjunction with Boise’s Mountain States Tumor Institute started the camp in 1984 as one of the first children’s oncology camps in the U.S., according to Buckle.

Little by little, year after year, Camp Rainbow Gold has grown to where 70 campers between the ages of six and 16 are expected for the 2002 session—and they’ll be supervised by 60 trained volunteers.

Although they may ordinarily travel to Salt Lake City or Spokane for their treatments, about 95% of the campers come from Idaho and a few from eastern Oregon, Buckle said.

Two or three campers usually come from Blaine County, six or seven from the Magic Valley, the same number from eastern Idaho, a handful from the Panhandle region and the bulk from the Boise Valley.

At Camp Rainbow Gold, they interact, make new friends and have a great time being kids.

"It’s a round robin of activity," said Buckle, excited that campers will be able to ride horses this year through the Sagebrush Arena’s adaptive horseback riding program.

From hiking, swimming and field games, to carnivals, costume dances, arts and crafts, skits and songs, the Camp Rainbow Gold activity staff of five keeps the kids hopping.

Regardless of the extent of their illnesses, newcomers are welcomed with open arms. Their medical needs are taken care of. The socialization process accomplishes healing, too.

Buckle said, "Childhood cancer is the most curable. But these kids have all had serious illnesses. They come to us in varying degrees, from those who are quite ill to kids who are six or seven years out from diagnosis.

"The camp is a bonding of those with similar interests. It helps the kids get back on track and starts them thinking about what kind of adults they will be. Socially it turns them around and encourages them to attack life with optimism. Their families benefit, and their classrooms benefit.

"These kids have been through so much. The camp is like a big family. Really it’s an amazing experience."

What makes Camp Rainbow Gold work is its volunteer staff, many returning year after year. This gives the program continuity, Buckle said.

They go through mandatory training that includes some home study and mostly group interaction.

A junior counselor program called "Counselors in Training," for ages 17-20 takes the volunteers through a three-level leadership training process taking them to full counselor status.

Full counselors start at the age of 21 and include volunteers up to age 66. Their experience is so rewarding that, to a person, they will say they receive more than they give.

Because Camp Rainbow Gold is free of charge to the campers, including transportation to and from Cathedral Pines, the program has to raise $50,000 a year through fundraisers and donations, Buckle said.

Recently, Hailey’s Red Elephant Saloon spearheaded a Wood River Valley benefit that ended up raising $20,000 for the camp including a generous matching donation, she said.

As the liaison between the American Cancer Society and the camp’s all-volunteer staff, Buckle is the only paid employee, so most of the donations go directly to the camp. She puts in plenty of extra hours.

"We’re campers for a week and a business for the other 51 weeks," said Buckle, who’s had her Camp Rainbow Gold job for seven years.

This year, for the first time, Camp Rainbow Gold is gaining accreditation through the American Camping Association as well as through the American Cancer Society’s Camping Center of Excellence.

Each summer, more and more kids take advantage of Camp Rainbow Gold.

She said, "We haven’t gotten to the point where the camp is full, but every year we get a little bigger."

To start the application process, call Buckle at 208-734-2425 or write her at Camp Rainbow Gold, 357 Edwards Drive, Twin Falls, ID 83301.

The camp is also in need of the following donations:

  • Frequent flier miles to campers and volunteers for camper transportation, volunteer conferences and staff accreditation training sessions.

  • Frames for camper art donated for fundraising purposes.

  • Camper sponsorships so the kids can go to Camp Rainbow Gold. The cost is about $600 per child for sponsorships.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.