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Young cancer patients find fun and friendship at Camp OK Corral

Jonah White, 9, of Tulsa plays a game Thursday at Camp OK Corral, which is sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Jonah's leg was amptutated because of bone cancer. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

Tulsa World – AVANT – One group of children is playing cards, another is shooting hoops, and still others are on the playground equipment.

It seems like any other summer camp – until Jonah pops off his right leg and Olivia adjusts the ballcap that covers her bald head.

Jonah White, 9, was diagnosed with bone cancer when he was 5 and is attending the camp for the third year. He’s wearing Spider-Man swim trunks and is a bundle of energy despite his prosthetic leg.

Olivia Hamilton’s hat is light purple with a yellow flower in the middle and the words “Life is good” stitched along the brim.

She was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago.

Olivia, also 9, is quiet and polite, keeping to herself as she makes a keychain out of pink and purple strands.

Jonah and Olivia have come to Camp OK Corral at the Shepherd’s Fold Ranch near Avant, north of Skiatook, to be with other children who know what it’s like to have cancer.

But they rarely talk about the disease. Instead they swim, ride horses, make crafts and play games.

“You just get to have fun and forget about your stuff for a week,” said Morgan Mitchell, 17, of Broken Arrow, who has Ewing sarcoma and has attended the camp for three years.

It can be tough to walk around school with a bald head, but the children at the camp are used to being treated differently.

“I never let people feel sorry for me because I don’t feel sorry for myself,” Mitchell said. “Kids here get that.”

Jarand Kennedy, 12, of Owasso was diagnosed with lymphoma in February and received a chemotherapy treatment just this week.

He speaks calmly about the tumor found in his chest and his plans to go back to school in the fall. He gets tired easily, and his immune system is weak. Earlier in the day, he had to spray sunscreen on the top of his head.

He has found lots of ways to have fun at camp, though.

“He’s like a leader,” said Ginny Haisten, a nurse at St. Francis Hospital who volunteers at the camp. “He never gets into trouble. He’s always thinking of something fun and creative to do.”

Camp OK Corral has 58 children ages 7 to 18 this year, including a few siblings of children with cancer. The camp is sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

The activities are like those at most summer camps, although full-contact sports aren’t allowed.

And nurses and doctors are always around.

Medications are handled carefully, and golf carts are parked around the campground in case a child gets too tired to walk.

As lunchtime nears, Olivia sits at a picnic table and continues work on her keychain. Jarand joins a group playing cards, while Jonah is with a larger group sitting in a circle playing a game.

“It’s just fun,” Haisten said. “It’s gives us something to talk about all year long. It just changes their whole demeanor.”

Camp OK Corral

Where: Shepherd’s Fold Ranch, near Avant

Children attending: 58

Ages represented: 7 to 18

Sponsor: American Cancer Society

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By SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2011  2:23 AM
Last Modified: 6/10/2011  8:16 AM

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