Alabama Young Farmer members helped brighten the day for more than 200 Camp Smile-a-Mile (SAM) attendees at the camp’s final session Aug. 15.
Camp SAM, a family camp for children with or recovering from cancer, is held at Children’s Harbor on Lake Martin. Seven summer camp sessions are hosted annually and tailored to children’s ages, stages of treatment and family needs.
Alabama Farmers Federation Young Farmers volunteered at the camp for patients, who are off treatment, and their families.
“As farmers, I know time is something we don’t have a lot of,” said Lindsey Brown, State Young Farmers secretary. “Serving others and giving of ourselves is well worth the time away from the farm.”
Young Farmers furnished glow sticks for campers attending a black-light dance party, and each camper received a T-shirt. A photo booth featuring a miniature pony, goat and dancing chicken also helped keep campers smiling.
“Cancer is such a horrible disease that affects so many children, and this camp helps some very sick children focus on having fun for a while,” Brown said. “Many of these children are celebrating their victories over cancer, so it was such a rewarding experience to see how excited they were about the animals and about our Young Farmers group being there. I think we probably got more out of the experience than the campers.”
Camp SAM Development Director Savannah Lanier said she and the staff were thrilled when the Young Farmers asked about volunteering and providing a meal.
“The fact that these farmers have taken time out of their day means so much to us and these families,” Lanier said.
Haleigh Moody of Calhoun County, a Young Farmer attending Gadsden State Community College, volunteered in a unique way. Dressed in a chicken costume, she posed with campers for photos and provided a comedic relief for the event, but her experience was heartfelt.
“It meant so much to me to spend time helping these children,” she said. “It makes me feel better and more grateful for what I have in my life. Being able to bring smiles to children was so heart warming. It’s always fun to bring out your inner child, and what better way to do so, than in a chicken suit.”
Young Farmers also sponsored a down-home Southern barbecue dinner for campers and their families. Red’s Little Schoolhouse in south Montgomery County donated homemade peach cobbler and banana pudding, while miniature pecan pies from Priester’s Pecans rounded out the feast. Other generous sponsors included Sister Schubert’s Rolls and Southern Homes and Gardens, which donated freshly cut flowers for the tables.
The Young Farmers dinner donation allowed the camp to use money that would have been spent on the meal to develop year-round programs for children unable to leave treatment centers.
“Volunteering for things like Camp SAM helps us remember how important it is to help and serve others, even though they might not be directly connected to farming,” Brown said. “The campers and their families are not that different from us. Spending time as a family and having fun is an important part of growing up, and it shouldn’t stop, even if a child has cancer.”
Click here to view photos from the event.