Camp Smile-A-Mile Brings Local Families Together
About 100 Montgomery area pediatric cancer patients, survivors and their families were at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts this afternoon.The visit was hosted by the non-profit organization Camp Smile-A-Mile, which provides support for cancer patients and their families. Lunch was served and the families mingled before attending a performance of Annie at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
Savannah DeRieux is the group’s development director. She says that the Birmingham-based organization wanted to bring together families who have been impacted by childhood cancer.
“Our latest initiative is to go to the different regions in the state where there are a lot of families being impacted by childhood cancer and Montgomery is one of those areas,” DeRieux said.
She says the support these families get from one another is helpful.
“When you’re going through something like that, the fellowship of others who are going through the same thing in life, facing the same obstacles, that means the world to those families.”
One of the children impacted by cancer is Elise Johnson. She was declared cancer-free in April from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She says that being surrounded by families who have gone through similar situations helped her get through a tough situation and that events like the one on Sunday were a great way to meet those families.
“It shows you that there’s other people going through it, that you’re not the only one. You know that going in, but it’s surreal to see everybody else there and saying ‘I know exactly what you mean, I know exactly what youre saying'”, Johnson said.
Johnson says she was shocked when she found out she had cancer, thinking she would miss events like homecoming and prom. It turned out to be a learning experience, however, that helped make her into the person she is today.
“I would go through cancer two more, five more times, I would do it again, just from everything I learned, from how you should treat friends, to how you should choose friends, to how you should go through your life and what attitude you should have.”
Smile-A-Mile was started in 1985 as a summer camp and is now a year-round program. For more information about the organization, visit their website at www.smileamile.com