BOONE, Iowa — A group of Johnston High School football players spent Sunday afternoon helping kick off a special camp for kids who are fighting cancer.
“Here nobody cares if they’ve got a scar, if they are bald, they are just kids. That’s for me, that’s the most exciting thing. These kids who really go through really horrific things during treatment [get to] come out here and get a week to be a kid,” said Mark Slocum, the executive director for Children’s Cancer Connection.
About 200 children ranging from five years old to 18 years old are finding their home away from home for a week at the oncology camp.
Helping them get all settled in was the Johnston boys football team.
“We’re just doing a small little part coming out here and getting luggage out. [It’s] something small, but hopefully it helps,” Johnston senior Austin Nanke said.
From the parent’s car, straight to the cabins, the Dragons football squad is hauling it all to help make kick off day seamless.
“Usually they put out on their website ‘volunteer opportunities,’ [but] they don’t even post it anymore for the luggage unload because they know we’re going to be here,” Alland Fuller said. “And I tell them, ‘you bet we’re going to be here.’ It’s an important part of our program and the things that we do.”
Fuller is much more than the Dragons’ chaperone for the day. The football team’s equipment manager is personally connected to this camp and all that they do.
“My son was diagnosed with leukemia in 1993,” Fuller said.
This camp helped Fuller’s family during a difficult time, and now Fuller’s players are helping him give back.
“These kids come up for a day to help unload luggage and get kids in and really create the excitement and the experience,” Slocum said.
But it’s not just the cancer patients benefiting. The athletes walk away with something, too.
“It brings bigger meaning to just carrying luggage to the kids. You get to build relationships with them, make them feel better about themselves and build bonds with them,” said Tanner Rowland, a Johnston senior.
The camp relies on lots of volunteers. Over 100 young adults are there all week long to make this a memorable experience for kids with cancer.