Perched atop a mountain among the beautiful woodlands of Idyllwild, California, you’ll find a majestic place. It’s summertime and there’s a contagious energy in the air; no matter where you look you’ll see excited children laughing and smiling.
The days here consist of playing in the grassy fields, shooting hoops on the basketball courts, and swimming in the warm lake. This is usually followed by nighttime stargazing under the open sky. While this may sound like a fairly typical summer camp, councilor Ciana Cervantes explains why it’s so much more.
For nearly 10 years, Ciana, a Foresters™ competitive scholarship1 winner, has been volunteering as a camp councillor for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times and Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky, which both support children and families whose lives have been affected by life-threatening illnesses.
“I believe that camp is a magical place that facilitates opportunities for families who share similar life experiences to connect with others,” Ciana tells me “At camp, the kids aren’t singled out as sick; they just get to be normal kids.”
At just seven years old, Ciana was diagnosed with Leukemia. Then at eight she first attended Camp Ronald McDonald as a camper. She describes to me the immense impact that the experience had on her: “I felt like myself,” she recalls. “The positive reinforcements I received as a camper made me realize different things about myself that I was able to take down the mountain with me.”
These experiences made Ciana uniquely qualified to be a camp councillor and she has also become a true leader in the process.
“When you have an illness, sometimes you’re categorized as too sick to do something, but at camp, there are no limitations!” she says. “I love teaching the kids that they can achieve anything they put their minds to and helping them to build their confidence. The kids are so strong. They inspire me and I’m lucky that I get to see firsthand how I’m able to help them.”
Ciana is also working towards completing a nursing program at California State University. Inspired by the care she received by compassionate and caring nurses as child, Ciana initially thought she would pursue pediatrics.
However, she found her passion in maternity, specifically labour and delivery, and is even considering pursuing a Masters once she graduates.
Ciana used to bring her textbooks to camp to try to fit in some extra study time – but that never seemed to happen. So now she gets all her studying done before going up the mountain, but she’s still taking life lessons back down with her.