Ashlynn Hull, then an eleven year old pediatric cancer patient, was hesitant when her parents suggested she attend her first sleep-away summer camp in 2015. “I was excited and nervous at the same time. I’ve never been away from home before,” she explains. Her feelings quickly changed after realizing she would be surrounded by other children who share her experience with cancer. “The idea of going to a place with kids like me and being able to let go of some of my stress was what made me want to go to camp.”
Camp Casco, a free week-long camp for childhood cancer patients and survivors, opened in August 2015. Located at the YMCA Berkshire Outdoor Center in Becket, MA, the camp includes free transportation from Boston and Worcester. Children ages 7-17 enjoy traditional summer camp activities, including archery, canoeing, swimming, and arts and crafts, under the careful supervision of round-the-clock medical professionals. In this carefree setting, campers like Ashlynn have fun and make friends with peers who understand.
Upon arrival to camp, Hull quickly got comfortable, and nerves calmed as she befriended cabin-mates and camp counselors alike. She instantly embraced the “camp spirit”, and enjoyed participating in the YMCA’s low ropes course, singing at the talent show, busting a move at the camp dance, and splashing in the lake. But, most of all, she says, her favorite part about coming to Camp Casco is “having fun doing whatever and not being picked on or bullied.”
Throughout the year, Hull has stayed involved with Camp Casco, attending family social events to keep up with her new friendships. But the first time camper hasn’t stopped there. Inspired by her experiences at camp, Ashlynn wants to ensure that she, and others, can continue to attend year after year by organizing fundraisers to support the organization. Through efforts at George H. Englesby Elementary School, Orthopaedic Surgical Associates of Lowell, and throughout her community, Ashlynn has raised nearly $2000 to date. Camp Casco CEO Erin Fletcher Stern explains, “Ashlynn’s efforts are helping us accept twice as many campers in 2016! Her passion to bring more children to camp is incredibly inspiring and truly embodies the spirit of Camp Casco. Inclusivity, friendship, and fun for children affected by cancer are what we’re all about.”
Asked what she is most looking forward to at camp this summer, Ashlynn says “I'm looking forward to seeing my friends from last year...and hopefully meeting new friends!”
We are currently accepting applications for our upcoming camp session. If you know a childhood cancer patient or survivor who would love a free week of camp, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 857-30-CASCO (22726).