Camp helps families who have children battling cancer

Barry County

BARRY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — For many families who have children with cancer, time spent with other kids can be extremely limited. But a free camp in West Michigan is giving children with cancer the chance to play with other kids and allowing parents time to relax and recharge. 

Elle-Joy Won was just 4 years old when the news came.

“She was initially diagnosed with stage 4 cancer non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma,” her dad, Mike Won, explained.

When it was all said and done, Elle-Joy spent nearly four years in treatment.

“One day I’d have to get shots, and then the next day it would be great,” Elle-Joy said. “And then the next day after that I’d have to get shots.”

This is the first time in more than a year Elle-Joy has been allowed to be around other people, and she’s spending it at Starlite Shores Family Camp in Hickory Corners, just outside Kalamazoo. It’s a place children with cancer and their families can go free of charge. 

“It is amazing,” said Elle-Joy’s Mom, Anne Won. “Just the fact that she can be here, that she can be running around playing with the other kids. It is such a delight to see her having fun.”

Members of the Western Michigan University football team stopped in for a visit Wednesday afternoon.

“You can hardly tell which kids might have cancer and which ones don’t,” said quarterback Jon Wassink. “They just have so much energy and everybody around here is very joyful and grateful for this week that they have here.”

The camp was founded by Kevin Diekevers and his wife, Carmen in 2013. This year, there are nearly 20 families from eight states.

“When your family gets diagnosed with childhood cancer, it’s pretty isolated,” said Kevin Diekevers. “This is some of the only time that people are going to see Jesus. You know, working, loving and serving other people.”

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