There is something magical about Camp Fantastic. It is a weeklong event that volunteers from Rappahannock County participate in once a year, as they have since 1983. The volunteers are led by Beverly Atkins, Linda Baldwin, Sandra Jenkins, Marie Davis, Jan Makela and the Rappahannock Lions Club. For one night out of that week, the volunteers prepare a meal and provide entertainment for kids, ages 7 to 17, with severe cases of cancer. On Aug. 17, the Rappahannock volunteers showed up to an empty pavilion at the 4-H Center off of U.S. 522, just this side of Front Royal, and over the course of a few hours transformed the setting into a gaily decorated affair, built around a theme. This year’s theme was NASCAR racing.
Everything moves like clockwork. The pavilion is swept clean, banners are hung, tables are set and decorated with flowers, food is prepared, a small band arrives, gift bags are set up on a couple of long tables, and this year a fleet of NASCAR racing machines lined up in the parking area right next to the pavilion.
Late in the afternoon, right on time, the children arrive in small vans, many decked out in their own creative costumes and hairdos. All of sudden the place is alive with children doing what children do, checking things out, admiring the racing cars, picking up their gift bags, chatting among themselves and lining up to go through the food line. The festivities continue on through the meal and afterward. There is face painting, circus clowns about to answer questions, cotton candy to consume. The kids sing, they dance, sit in the sun, talk quietly. Camp Fantastic staff and medical support personnel, many from NIH, join in the activities.
And then all of a sudden the kids are gone and everything is quiet again. It is a magical experience for both the kids and for the volunteers from Rappahannock County.