Camp Quality Arkansas gives back to kids with cancer

by Paige Turner

For children, summer is a time when campgrounds become busy communities full of laughter, rekindled summer friendships and a rediscovered love for nature. At Camp Quality Arkansas, children with cancer and their siblings are afforded that same childhood rite of passage by stepping away from the hospital visits to enjoy their youth.

Camp Quality Arkansas is a nonprofit weeklong summer camp for children ages 4-18 who are living with cancer and their siblings at Camp Powderfork in Bald Knob. During the week, campers enjoy the traditional summer camp experience full of swimming, arts and crafts, outdoor activities and more. The camp was recently held in June.

Johnny Passmore, an organizing committee member for Camp Quality Arkansas and a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Guy-Perkins Middle School, says the fun campers have during the week is what has kept him coming back for the last five years. “Camp Quality is great because it’s a chance for the kids to have a good time away from their daily struggle. A lot of childhood gets taken away when they’re in the hospital and this week just gives them the opportunity to take some of that time back.”

Camp Quality Arkansas offers three different roles of involvement: campers, staff and companions. Passmore has served as a companion, which is a volunteer specifically assigned to spend the week with a certain camper. The companion aspect of Camp Quality Arkansas is what makes the program especially valuable, according to Passmore.

“Every single kid gets a companion of the same gender who spends the entire week with them,” Passmore said. “You get to build a really strong bond with your camper, and you are able to help so many kids come out of their shell.”

The program is unique in that it is completely free to campers and their families. High quality healthcare is also available on site during the entire camp program.

In addition, the program also offers year-round events, such as cookouts, retreats and counseling, to ensure the best care given to children with cancer and their families.

“The camp is just a big family,” Passmore said. “You really get to know these people and become a part of their lives. You get to really see the goodness in people and help those who are in need, and that makes this camp all the more special.”