Editor’s Note: Camp KEMO, led by Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, offers a summer camp experience for children with cancer and blood disorders. This year’s Camp KEMO is Monday, June 13 through Saturday, June 18, at River Oaks Retreat, 180 Youth Camp Rd., Honea Path, S.C. Media are invited to visit the camp any time during the week. Please let us know if you are planning on visiting the camp so we can alert organizers.
Eight-year-old Ashley Dunavant of Columbia was near the end of her summer vacation last year when she experienced a high fever and stomach pains. Her parents took her to the doctor who immediately noticed a difference in her skin color. Blood tests uncovered that Ashley had an extremely low blood count and was sent immediately to the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. A week and a half later, Ashley was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“Within the first week, the staff at Palmetto Health earned my trust. They’ve taken all of us in as family. Anybody who is here with us, whether they are siblings, grandparents, cousins, they take care of us all,” said Melissa Dunavant, Ashley’s mother.
James Dunavant, Ashley’s father, added, “I can’t say enough good things about this hospital and my experience here. It’s almost like they anticipate your needs before you even know you need them.”
Ashley is in the last phase of intense chemotherapy, she has a two and a half year treatment plan. In a few weeks, Ashley will have a chance to be more of a normal child for a change. She will join hundreds of other pediatric patients from the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and their siblings at Camp KEMO, a weeklong summer camp for patients with cancer, ages 5–18 and their siblings.
Staffed by our physicians, nurses and volunteers, Camp KEMO allows campers to swim, boat, hike and simply be children. Camp KEMO is completely funded by community donations.
“We’re excited for Ashley to attend Camp KEMO. We know she’ll be taken care of by people that we trust and she’ll be able to be a normal kid,” said Melissa.
Ashley will be attending Camp KEMO with her 11-year-old sister, Catelyn. She loves playing with her sister and their dogs, Daisy and Cocoa. Ashley and Catelyn created a YouTube video named, “Blood Soup – Learn About Leukemia from a 7 Year Old,” where they demonstrate how normal and unhealthy blood looks.
When Ashley grows up she wants to find the cure for cancer, have a farm and be an artist. She enjoys going frog hunting and shooting squirrels with her dad. Ashley loves drawing flowers, trees, bird’s nests and rainbows. Her artwork was recently submitted in an art contest for Ace Hardware that she won, which resulted in a donation of $500 to the Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
This year, Camp KEMO will run from Monday, June 13 through Saturday, June 18. The fun times at Camp KEMO lay important groundwork for future treatment as participants learn to trust, respect and relate to one another. For more information about Camp KEMO or to make a donation, visit campsite.palmettohealth.org.