Jennifer Leafty Direct Support Professional, REM Iowa
Grant Recipient, Camp Quality Heartland
Camp Quality Heartland in Council Bluffs, Iowa, holds a special place in Jennifer Leafty’s heart. The mission of Camp Quality is to establish community-based camping experiences and ongoing support programs for children with cancer and their families. Jennifer began her involvement at the camp at age six when her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer. She went to Camp Quality for the next 12 years as a camper with her siblings until she graduated and returned as a Camp Quality Companion.
A one-on-one companion is assigned to every child who registers for summer camp. Jennifer volunteers one week each year to be a companion for a camper. The caring and supportive relationship between the pair begins at camp, and continues to be fostered throughout the year with reunions such as a trip this fall to a pumpkin patch. Jennifer and her camper developed such a strong friendship that the camper asked to be matched up year after year until she graduated this past summer.
The organization’s vision is that all children with cancer and their families find joy and hope through shared experiences and an ongoing support system. Camp activities include archery, rock wall climbing, canoeing, and even hot air balloon rides.
“Jennifer enjoys spending time with the children and giving them the opportunity to forget about their illness for a while and just be kids,” said Renae Dingman, Program Director at REM Iowa. “The community is a better place because Jennifer shows these children that they are cared about and gives them a few happy memories to help get them through some of the tough times.”
“Camp is a family affair for us,” said Jennifer. “My mom and my siblings are companions or staff members as well. Volunteering a week of my summer does not feel like work to me, I have so much fun going back to summer camp each year as a companion.”
To learn more about Camp Quality Heartland, please visit their website at http://www.campqualityusa.org/htl/.