By Cathy Cobbs — Columbia Star
The death of a child with cancer in 2004, the sudden passing of his mother in 2016 would seem to overwhelm any hopes and dreams that one might have for the future.
But what has come out of this is Camp Cole, a specialty retreat for both children and adults who are undergoing the same struggles.
It all started with Cole Sawyer, the energetic son of Stacy and Scott, who was diagnosed with Rhabdmyoscaroma, a rare form of soft tissue cancer. During his 16- month battle with the disease, he was introduced to Camp Kemo, which offers a weeklong summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings. His mother became very involved in Camp Kemo events, even after her son passed away at the age of 11 in 2004.
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“As the years continued, my mother became more and more involved in camp,” said her daughter, Kelsey, in a letter written on the Cole Sawyer memorial website.
“She became a member of the Advisory Board; and in recent years the president of the Advisory Board for Camp Kemo. Often at our dinners, she talked about camp, what decorations she had, ideas about activities, who gave a kind donation to help. In a binder, she kept all things Camp Kemo-related; I found handwritten notes from friends and donors. Stacy Sawyer oozed everything Camp Kemo related.”
The Sawyers, with another family, the Fawcetts, began discussing the idea of another camp that would allow for year-round experiences for children and adults who have a variety of needs. However, the dream was temporarily halted when Stacy died suddenly in 2016 after a stroke.
That’s when the Fawcetts stepped up with a donation of land on Garner’s Ferry Road that will be developed into a fully operational, year-round facility that would be both ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and ACA (American Camper Association) compliant.
“We want this to be a one-of-a-kind facility that could be used by children and adults who are facing all kinds of difficulties in life: diabetes, sickle cell, cancer, PTSD, and other challenges,” said Deans Fawcett. “With the help of two very large donations from the Norman and Gerri Sue Arnold Foundation and Bebie Chambers, we are on our way to our goal of raising $7 million.”
“My daughter, Latan, got real excited about this venture, and I thought it just sounded like a wonderful idea, and I know the people involved in the project will make it a beautiful place for all to enjoy,” said Chambers.
The 40-acre facility is scheduled to open summer 2020. Fawcett said the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina is partnering with Camp Cole to offer in-kind construction services.
According to its brochure, Camp Cole will provide “children and young adults with experiences that could help them developmentally grow, as well as, provide adults with opportunities to build connections with others and strengthen our community’s roots. Camp Cole will serve as a sanctuary where all children and adults are safe, regardless of their need and/or disability.”