Community members gathered for a special occasion to celebrate the groundbreaking of Camp Cole in Eastover.
Established in 2016, Camp Cole was inspired by 11-year-old Cole Sawyer who lost his battle to cancer in 2004. The camp was founded to mimic the joy-filled experiences Cole had at the camp he visited which catered exclusively to children with cancer.
When Cole passed away, his mother Stacy made a promise to create a unique camp in his memory to serve children and adults living with critical illnesses. Stacy’s vision was to create a place where these children could have the best experiences, however, she unexpectedly passed away in 2016. Both Cole and Stacy’s legacy were carried on by Kelsey Sawyer Carter, daughter of Stacey and sister of Cole, and her long-time friend Margaret Deans Fawcett Grantz.
Both Carter and Grantz shared experiences of losing someone they loved to cancer, which was the fuel to their dream of founding Camp Cole.
“It warms my heart and fills me with enormous pride to look around and see so many of you here today,” Carter said. “Not even a global pandemic can slow down a Camp Cole groundbreaking or a Camp Cole supporter.”
Carter called the land a “remarkably perfect” place to build the new camp as she expressed her gratitude to the donors and sponsors who made a dream become a reality.
“Living with a life-threatening illness or disability can be lonely, scary and hopeless. Now, there will be a place for individuals and groups to forget about their challenges to connect with others who inspire them to make the most out of every day,” Carter said. “Camp Cole will be an experience that changes people forever and a place where lifelong friendships are formed.”
Carter’s father, Scott Sawyer who serves as the chairman of Camp Cole, explained how the impact of Cole’s camp experience touched Cole’s life, but also the life of the entire Sawyer family. “We are participating in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the trajectory of countless children and adults who often get overlooked because of their illness or disability,” Sawyer said.
Co-founder, Margaret Deans Fawcett Grantz called the new grounds “nothing but a dream come true.” She asked those who gathered Thursday to put on their “imagination caps” to visualize the 40 acres of land adorned with a dock, gazebo, barn, swimming pool, indoor and outdoor activity spaces, walking paths, a medical care facility, nine state-of-the-art buildings, a 35-acre pond, 200 beds, 300 café seats and a therapeutic riding program.
“One year from now in this very sport, there will be hundreds of beautiful people of all ages thriving in these majestic outdoors surrounded by sunshine, laughter and love all while facing a multitude of health and life challenges,” Grantz said.
Grantz finished her speech with words moving many in attendance to tears, saying, “We want them to forget about what ails them, what scares them, what brings them sorrow and live the biggest, happiest lives they can, as if every day was their last day, and that’s really how we should all live.”
The ceremony closed with Camp Cole’s co-founders and board members breaking ground each with a shovel in their hands. The camp is slated to open in the summer of 2021. Those interested in learning more or supporting Camp Cole can visit campcole.org.