Camp Sparkle brings magic to kids touched by cancer

Camp Sparkle brings magic to kids touched by cancer
From behind the ivories, a morning song is a chance to bring light to what could be a dark day.

For 9-year old Camlin Vespaziani, it’s also an opportunity to forget about everything else, and just be a kid.

“(I don’t) feel like everyone is staring at me and laughing at me because I’m bald,” she said, “because that happens a lot.”

Vespaziani, a fourth-grade student, was diagnosed with leukemia on Christmas Eve. Treatment has taken most of her hair, but not her spirit.

In the morning, she’s singing along with the piano and dancing with friends; later, she’s coloring in her memory book, side by side with other kids – some of whom look just like her.

It’s a typical day at Camp Sparkle, a one-week summer camp for kids with cancer or those touched by cancer. The program is free of charge for nearly 50 kids, supported by donations and run by Gilda’s Club of Seattle, a nonprofit support network for cancer patients and their families.

“I like to say Camp Sparkle is magic,” said program manager Michelle Massey.

“(The kids) can come and talk to other kids about what is it like and connect with other kids about their cancer experience. ... They do not allow cancer to define their life,” she added.

Sharing an experience with cancer has been crucial for Anya Hyra, an 11-year old from Woodinville. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago.

“They said that she wouldn’t live for more than a year,” Hyra said, “but actually just a couple weeks ago was her fifth anniversary. (Camp is) just fun, and it kind of helps you forget about the cancer.”

Hyra said she is looking forward to coming back to be a counselor next year so she can help other kids deal with cancer for a while – whether through music, art, or field trips – or more.

The 11-year old said also looking forward to celebrating another milestone with her mother, who continues to fight breast cancer.

“The one thing that she wants to do is stay alive until I graduate high school,” Hyra said, fighting back tears, “and so I really hope that’s going to happen.”