Thursday, February 2, 2012

Panda and the True Value of Camp

You might have noticed a new blog on my sidebar, called Kathryn Panda Bradley. It is a blog about someone I met at Camp Goodtimes West. Everyone on staff has a Camp Name, and that is how they are known by all of the campers and other staff. Panda is the Camp Goodtimes name of Kathryn Bradley.
Photo of Panda by Paul Dudley Photography
She had cancer when she was young, so she first attended Camp Goodtimes as a camper when she was a child. Later, she became a staff member, along with her brother, who is known to all as Loop.
I don't know either Panda or Loop very closely, but I know them from the various times I've volunteered at camp or on Da Boata (by the way, my Camp name is Truffle). Both of them are warm, friendly, humorous, open, kind and likely to be dressed very crazily, as is normal for camp. I recall a brief but meaningful conversation I had with Panda one day last summer.

Panda had a recurrence of cancer, and she has been in treatment. Recently, she moved home on hospice care. My heart has been with her family, as we have walked the hospice path with our own daughter. I just received word that Panda passed away this morning.

Why am I telling you this? Because it made me realize anew that the impact of Camp Goodtimes goes beyond what I understood when our children attended in the summer of 2007. It is much more than a week of fun and craziness which helps children who have cancer (and their siblings) realize what cancer cannot take from them...it goes far beyond that. Camp creates an extended family of people who really and truly care about each camper and staff member, forever. Not just for fun, but in sickness and in health, in remission and in relapse, until death and afterward. I know this, because I have felt this love and caring directed toward our family when Katie died, and I have seen it come alongside other children and their families when they are dying. It's not just about the Goodtimes - though there are plenty of those. It's about caring for people who touch your life briefly, yet touch your heart for all time.
Katie and friends at Camp Goodtimes, 2007

It may be part of the reason why Katie asked us to scatter her ashes there.
To Panda and her family, to Codi and her family, to Gloria and her family, to every Camp Goodtimes camper, staffer and his/her family: you will always be loved and remembered by your Camp Goodtimes family. I am so thankful that we joined that family in June of 2007! Though it means suffering grief alongside other families (like ours) when a staffer or camper passes away, it also means that no one has to suffer alone...and that is worth it. It is also a reason for gratitude, and a good reason to support this camp.
Katie at Camp Goodtimes, 2007
Whether you are a fan of the American Cancer Society or not, giving directly to Camp Goodtimes is more than a good investment; it is a gift that lasts forever in the hearts of children and their families. It creates community, and opportunity for love and happiness when people need it the most. Please consider supporting Camp Goodtimes West - visit this website to find out how you can do it.

And to Panda, Loop and family:  I send love and prayers for comfort in your hearts.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

AMAZING!!!!!

Ducky

Anonymous said...

Karen, You have spoken the words in my heart here in this blog. The camp family means so much to our family as well and the DiTuri family sends their sincere condolences to Panda, Loop and the rest of their family. And to all the camp family members as well. Vera DiTuri

Kay said...

What a beautiful tribute to camp and an amazing lady. So sorry to hear about this loss...praying peace and comfort to her family and all who knew her. Just so sad.

Leslie said...

Karen,

You never cease to amaze me. Thank you for taking the words out of my heart, and writing such a beautiful blog!

xoxoxo

Allegra Smith said...

You are as dear to my heart as one of my very own. Your sense of loving and respecting every human being with the same measure of dignity and care are beyond anything I have experienced in many a Moon.

You are indeed one of my own, and I will keep you in my heart for as long as I am here, and then I will still keep you wherever my heart may be.

Bradley Family said...

Thank you Karen,

Kathryn(Panda) loved camp so very much. It is a place for fun and builds a family. This family is forever. Kathryn and her brother (Loop) have been gong since 2000 and have not missed a year. They didn't want to go the first year but we parents talked them into trying it. They have loved camp every since. We plan on dong something for camp in Panda's honor. Don't know what but it will be something to help support and finance the place that brought so much joy to our daughter and sister's life.
Carol Bradley (Panda's Mom)

Busy Bee Suz said...

{Truffle}
Love and prayers to Panda's family.....her smile is just radiant!
I love this camp...it has brought so much joy to you and those kiddos!!!
xo

Elizabeth said...

I don't know how I missed this post, but I have and I am sorry. I will bow my head in prayer for this beautiful girl and her family and for all those, like yourself, who have known such grief and sorrow yet remain beacons of love and all that is good.

Karla said...

It's always hard to read one of my biggest fears happening to another family. Thank you for the positive twist and the reminder of supporting a local charity with a direct impact.

Karen said...

My deepest condolences to Panda's family. Such a lovely girl, and a heartwarming tribute to camp. Such a beautiful place and surely a deep bonding experience for you all. (((hugs)))