CONTRIBUTED BY VINCE IAN CAÑETE
A camp like no other! If you’ve heard of Suntown Camp before, you would know that it’s a week-long camp that brings together children stricken with cancer, heart problems, and other debilitating diseases where they enjoy fun learning activities and meaningful relationships.
For 13 years, this Bacolod-based foundation has committed itself to provide a home filled with hope and happiness to its campers. In here, they forget of their battles and illnesses even for a short while. But when the pandemic hit this year, many thought that holding the camp would be impossible.
It was pointed out that due to health risks and travel restrictions, things would not be in our favor to pursue the camp that the children look forward to every year. But then again, for anyone who truly knows how things work at Suntown, they know that nothing here is impossible! For in Suntown, we always find a way!
So this year, since the kids couldn’t go to camp… we brought the camp experience to them.
With the theme “Beneath the Same Sky,” Suntown Camp Foundation held not only its 14th camp but also its first virtual camping experience at home from November 14-21.
Each kid was surprised at home by groups of volunteers who traveled on wheels across the province and delivered their Camp Activity kits. They were surely in delight to open their boxes and see that they contained the usual fun activities they do at camp – journals, camp shirts, art materials, food treats, and a lot more! In lieu of packing bags and travelling for the opening of camp, the children readied their devices and scouted for areas at home with the strongest signal.
Kids who had no means of connecting virtually and had limited internet access received surprises from Suntown too!
Usually, the first day of the camp is where we energetically welcome the campers through different creative and festive ways we could think of. And this year, to warmly open the camp, we took the 43 campers aboard to a first-class virtual flight experience to six tourist destinations – Qatar, Mongolia, Nepal, Brazil, Norway, and South Africa.
Each volunteer went all out and dressed according to their assigned countries and showcased the culture, history, and wonderful spots to the campers. Not only was the first day filled with fun surprises but also with learning sessions themed according to their age groups. Then for a whole week, the campers finished the activities in their kits and proudly shared their outputs in our chat room.
They got to dye their camp shirts for this year, cook pancakes at home, and finish a lot of fun activities in their journals. If you’ve also experienced Suntown, you would know that any camp wouldn’t be complete if there is no Gala Night.
Each year, we spectacularly turn the campsite into faraway kingdoms, enchanted castles, and dream destinations. Volunteers would transform themselves into princes and princesses, witches and wizards, pop stars and many more to perfectly match the theme.
And for this year, who says we could not do it? So, in the comfort and safety of their homes, the campers and the rest of the people in Suntown enjoyed watching Bituin: Light of Hope – A Virtual Gala Experience.
The two-hour show was packed with a variety of musical and dance performances from the campers themselves, the leaders, volunteers, and even celebrities from all over the world. This gala experience surely gave everyone a boost of the holiday spirit and reminded the campers of the true meaning of Christmas. Never did it occur to anyone in Suntown that we could hold a camp while the campers are far away at home.
That the laughter and melodies you usually hear in the halls could still be heard even through the virtual calls. That the warm hugs and kisses felt each year could still be felt through the sweet messages the kids send in the chat groups. That the talents and stories of every one at camp could still be showcased and celebrated, no matter how far we are from each other.
After all, anyone who has experienced the magic of Suntown Camp will always be connected with each other forever. That no matter where we are, we will always see the bright shining sun, beneath the same sky. This year’s camp has been a challenging and totally different experience for everyone.
We thank everyone who made Suntown Camp 14 possible and memorable. Surely, as compared to the past 13 camps – this camp was surely like no other! Learn more about the magic of Suntown Camp at suntowncamp.org.*