The Backstory

Everything Has A Purpose

The story of Camp Cole started a long time ago.

It goes back to a friendship. One that no one knew would be so impactful. Stacy Sawyer and Deans Fawcett were sorority sisters; both Tri Deltas at the University of South Carolina. They would both graduate, get married, and have separate lives but would always stay friends.

Their story comes back together after both women are affected by cancer, a terrible disease.

In 2004 Cole Sawyer, Stacy’s son was diagnosed with cancer. Cole would battle this dreadful disease for a couple of years before sadly passing away. While sick, he attended a pediatric cancer camp where his bald head and chemo pills fit in with everyone else. For one week, he experienced the joys of camp with his older sister Kelsey and it is remembered as one of his favorite weeks.

Deans’ daughter, Margaret Deans, experienced cancer first hand when her best friend was diagnosed at the age of 3 and passed away at the age of 8. For one week her bald head and chemo pills fit in with everyone else. This was the same pediatric cancer camp that Cole attended but about eight years earlier.

There is a reason for everything.

Fast Forward to 2009 and both Kelsey and Margaret Deans are counselors at this same camp. They lost someone so close to them, but knew there was a purpose and wanted to give back. Both Cole and Margaret Deans’ friend loved camp and so for the past 10 summers Kelsey and Margaret Deans have served at this camp for children with cancer.

After Cole’s passing, Stacy and her family desperately wanted to create a camp home for this camp. A place that was a clean, safe space for children with diseases. They wanted this pediatric cancer camp to have a place to call Home. But they had just lost their son, the idea became overwhelming and they realized it wasn’t the time. They put their plans on hold hoping to one day find a way.

In 2015, Margaret Deans was at a camp conference. Sitting among a table talking to John Hinks, who is now a Camp Cole advisory board member, about how it was time to really work on building our dream camp. At the time, Peter Fawcett had been approached to purchase a farm on Highway 378 from Hammond School. Margaret Deans envisioned the land being the perfect spot for the camp. It is close to the hospital but far enough out to still be a camp. When back from the conference, the first phone called made was to Stacy.

Stacy and Deans could never have guessed their lives and friendship was going to rekindle the way it did. Suddenly, these two go-getters were on a mission to make Columbia a better community. Stacy, Deans, and a few others went to the land and knew this land on Garners Ferry could turn the dream into a reality.

Peter Fawcett, who has a heart of gold, believed in the vision and cared about the mission. He agreed to purchase the land to make Columbia’s first overnight camp for children and adults with a variety of needs. Things were beginning to take off with Stacy and Deans as the gallant leaders taking on something that has never been done before.

Suddenly, in 2016 Stacy passed away.

The visionary, the leader, the motivator who believed in this camp from the day her son passed away, suddenly was no longer physically here to create her dream camp.

The best thing that ever happened after that awful day was Stacy’s family believing in her dream too. Driving to the beach, Kelsey called Deans and told her that this dream was not going to fade again and if Deans was still willing could they all keep Stacy’s dream and continue working toward the reality of creating and building a camp for adults and children of all kinds.

For two years, the Fawcett family and the Sawyer family have worked hard alongside each other for Stacy, for Cole, for the Columbia Community.

Today, the dream of Camp Cole is happening. Columbia will have its first overnight camp space for camp programs of all kinds. Camp Cole will have a campus that is handicap accessible, that is clean and safe, and an environment for everyone no matter if you have a disability, disease or hardship.

We are so thankful for every person who has been on our journey so far. The donors, the volunteers, our families and friends who have stood by our side and listened to our story, this would not be happening without you believing in us. Camp Cole is happening and we cannot be more excited to continue sharing this journey with you. 2018 is going to be the best year yet!

We can't see you, but we're thinking of you!

During the COVID-19 crisis, Camp Cole remains 100% focused on the development of our world-class camp and retreat facility and 100% grateful for our donors and friends who are helping to make it possible.

Until we see you again, stay safe, healthy, and keep on shining!