Camp Fantastic celebrates 30 years of fun for kids with cancer

Camp Fantastic 2011. Courtesy: Terri Tomoff/Special Love, Inc.

Camp Fantastic, a special summer camp in Front Royal, Virginia is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week.

The camp gives more than 100 pediatric cancer patients a break from the daily onslaught of hospitals and medical tests.

Camp Fantastic is funded primarily through private donations. Organizers are always looking for volunteers and financial support.

Every hour at camp is jam packed with activities like canoeing, horseback riding and sports.

And several times a day campers go through what's called "medline" where they pick up their prescribed drugs and treatments and in many cases that includes chemotherapy.

There are doctors and nurses available 24-7. There's even a makeshift emergency room fully stocked with life-saving equipment just in case a camper's health condition deteriorates.

"Medicine is what cures the kids physically, but I think camp is what cures the kids emotionally," says Dave Smith, CEO of Special Love, Inc.

For parents, the robust medical staff here provides peace of mind.

"Because this facility is set up the way it is, he can still come, play and, you know, skin his knee if he needs to, you know get his scars like every other kid," says Kimberly Fountain, a parent.

After attending camp for a decade, this is Ryan Tomoff's last year. Now 18, he plans to return as a counselor, like many survivors on staff.

"For them, it's a way to close the circle and make that experience count for something," Smith says.

This year, Camp Fantastic celebrates 30 years, welcoming alumni from the first summer in 1983.

As the sun sets on the first day of camp, a tree is planted each year in memory of those who can't come back - because they're too sick, or because their battle with cancer has ended.

Over the years, Ryan Tomoff has lost a few friends, returning to camp only to discover that they wouldn't be. But Ryan says, he honors those friends by signing up for activities they used to enjoy together.

"I can still feel that they're here," he says. "Somehow, they're here, watching over us. They're here."

For more information about how you can help: Special Love, Inc.