|NABC member Glen Funk and his grandson Travis Swank worked as counselors at Camp Mak-A-Dream this summer. |
The story began when Marco Grossi, Craftsman Collision Centers in Detroit, Michigan, met up with camp co-founder Harry Granader at a Ronald McDonald House fundraiser in Detroit. Harry Granader told Grossi about Camp Mak-A-Dream, a camp for young cancer patients, explaining that the camp needed a health center at a cost of $500,000.
Grossi then spoke with National Auto Body Council's (NABC) Chuck Sulkala, Acme Body & Paint, Boston, Massachusetts. Sulkala had just been involved with raising $50,000 for another charity. Grossi told Sulkala, "We need $500,000 to build a health center at this cancer camp in Montana." Sulkala replied: "Why not, it is only another zero?"
And so began the relationship with the collision repair industry and Camp Mak-A-Dream, Gold Creek, Montana. Due in large part to the NABC efforts of raising $500,000, this health center was dedicated on September 18, 2003, and started operations in January 2004.
At teen camp, there is a good chance that campers will return year after year. The fight against cancer can be a very long one. "Hopefully, camp will be the carrot to get them through the year," Benton said, speaking about the health condition of the campers. "With some, it literally gives them a reason to live - something to really look forward to."
The camp has a system to encourage and embrace the strong support system between campers. A full camp is 50 campers, half of whom are active treatment patients, still in chemotherapy and not cancer free. The other half is divided between campers that have finished treatment within the last year and campers that have been treatment-free for two or more years. Benton spoke to the resiliency of the campers. "Some of them have been back three times and they are determined to be joyful and happy!"
Glen Funk, formerly of Motor Publications, currently vice president of Trevathan Enterprise, Enterprise Logistics, spent July 5-13, 2004 as a camp counselor at Camp Mak-A-Dream. As a board member of NABC, Funk closely followed the collision repair industry's involvement with the camp's growth.
Irony abounds in this story. Initially, David Merrell, president of Enterprise Logistics, was signed up to go to camp with Funk. Memorial Day weekend, Merrell began experiencing severe headaches and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Due to the severity of Merrell's illness, he could no longer make the trip. Now three months later, fortunately, Merrell is doing well enough to have attended the Collision Industry Conference in Chicago in August.
|The ropes challenge all campers. For safety, a camp counselor is close by to assist. This camper's disabilities did not keep him from the challenge.|
When Funk found out Merrell would be unable to attend, he turned to his 18-year-old grandson, Travis Swank, a high school graduate from Bluffton, Ohio. Swank will be attending Northwestern University in Chicago this fall. He is a 6'5" well-mannered, football player, whose gentle and caring demeanor was simpatico with the kids at camp.
Camper learns the intricacies of archery while enjoying summer at Camp Mak-A-Dream.
Morning starts early at Camp Mak-A-Dream. At 7:00 a.m. there are early activities before breakfast, including fly fishing, hiking and aerobics. Starting the day on a clear crisp Montana morning, standing in a mountain stream, creates memories that will stay with these campers forever. After early activities, everyone heads to the main lodge for breakfast. Every morning each cabin had to do a skit to see who would eat first.
Evenings at the camp have everyone seated around the campfire, under a beautiful Montana starry night, eating the best camp food ever, S'Mores.
Sharing the experience
Funk gave a presentation about his week at Camp Mak-A-Dream at the Collision Industry Conference in Chicago. His photographs were full of happy faces - children and counselors alike, sharing the experience of a lifetime.
What Glen Funk did is what a lot of us talk about - giving more of ourselves to help others. His presentation to CIC was difficult for him. He had trouble talking without choking up and he couldn't keep from shedding a tear - a picture worth more than a million words. When interviewed, Funk asked that we bring out the positive, the bright side of this experience. And yet in conversation only one time did he ask the question, "What is fair here?"
|The "boyz in the camp" preparing for archery lessons.|
The last night at Camp Mak-A-Dream is a talent show. Funk quietly talked about a camper, a young girl completely blind, and how she sang at the talent show. "She has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard."
Memories are made at camp. Many of us have cherished camp memories. The memories that Glen Funk and Travis Swank shared with the campers they met this summer are very precious, and most likely, life changing. As Funk said, "when you come to Camp Mak-A-Dream the campers forget they have cancer! I feel lucky in so many ways," Funk modestly stated. "I am proud to be in an industry that believes in this type of project. I am proud of my company, Trevathan Enterprises, which sent me to this camp. I am also honored to have done this with my grandson." Both Funk and Swank plan on returning next year.
Camp Mak-A-Dream never says good-byes. So this story will never end.
Chuck Sulkala presented his thoughts about this camp."Until you have shed your own tears, it's difficult to understand the powerful emotions this experience brings."
Janet Chaney has served in many facets of the collision repair industry. She is now looking after the best interests of her clients from Cave Creek, Arizona. Her email address is email@example.com.