Outings for Children with Cancer
by Randall Massey
Most DCYC folks of late think that The Leukemia Cup was the first Cancer event in which DCYC participated. Not so, at least one other that is close to my heart.
In the mid-1980s I was fortunate to be asked to help take out Children Cancer Victims. I soon found out that these kids didn’t exhibit any victimhood; they were just kids fighting for tomorrow. I was to help my good buddy John Harris take kids out on his boat. John’s boat was always spotless, his wife keeps it so clean, she scrubbed off the Gelcoat. You dare not step on his boat with one blade of grass on your shoes, or experience a tongue lashing of vast dimensions.
Let me mention that you didn’t volunteer for this outing; you are asked if you thought to be worthy. This Club had some good old boy closeness to it and some events virtually few knew about.
A bus full of kids pulled up to DCYC and off adults and kids came. Some got off on their own power and some being carried. They all had no hair and some bodies twisted in all directions, but all with BIG SMILES.
We filled water balloons (never before allowed on John Harris’s boat but just fine that day). I carried some of the kids on boats (I think that’s why they asked me, I was really strong), and helped the rest along, a small bunch of guys with big smiles as well.
We went out under motor and stayed that way, throwing water balloons at each other and drinking, and spilling, cold drinks all over the boat. John and the rest of the guys were have one of the best feeling anyone can have.
Back to the dock and unloading the kids while helping them back on the bus. We then met for a moment with Mike Skalak's girlfriend (Laura Skalak), soon to be wife, who was the point person for arranging this outing for the kids. We were thanked 10X and told that 85-90% of these kids wouldn’t be back next year. My heart sank to ground zero. The rest of the guys knew this reality from the year before and took the news as best anyone could.
As I went down with John and helped him clean up his boat, no words were spoken. I went home and looked at my two healthy kids and went outside to dry my eyes as I do each time I think of this very important outing. That day, I saw what some would call gruff, sometimes grouchy men with hearts bigger than all outdoors.
Robert Lehn and Randall Massey reached out to Laura Skalak to get her perspective on these outings. The following is her email response:
This brings back so many beautiful memories. Here's how it all started: I was asked to be a counselor for Camp Esperanza, benefiting the oncology patients at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. Although there were and are other camps for cancer victims, this was the first for Children's in Dallas. Later, Camp Esperanza became a part of Camp John Marc Meyers. The camp, at the time, was held at Camp Sweeney, a camp primarily set up for young diabetic patients in Gainesville, Texas. The children's families saw the patients off in the parking lot of Children's on Saturday morning. This camp was as much a respite for the parents and families, as it was for the patients. Needless to say, for some parents, it was terribly hard to let go of their children, even for a week. The camp was provided at no charge to the families. The camp staff organized a committee that went out to the community to get donations. Everything, included the water balloons that Randy mentioned, were donated. During the first couple of years, we took the kids to Texoma for a day on the lake. I can't remember why that stopped, but the staff wanted a day for the older kids to get away, and just be . . . kids on the water! I truly believe that God had a hand in this, as I had no other choice in my heart, but to make this thing happen between DCYC and Camp Esperanza for the Summer of 1988. The location of the lake was perfect, the facilities were what we needed, and there were no bigger hearts than those of the DCYC family. It was indeed a match made in Heaven! The kids talked about their sailing adventures constantly when they returned to Camp. They were so happy because everyone treated them like kids . . . not patients! I know that was especially hard for a few of our members, as we had some pretty sick kids on the boats . . . but what a ride it was for them! I hope this helps.
Love to all.