Resident seeks help for Camp Happy Days
by Robert Joseph Baker | May 19, 2016 7:13 am
Last Updated: May 19, 2016 at 7:15 am
Charleston-based charity Camp Happy Days has been providing kids with cancer and their siblings a unique experience at Camp Bob Cooper for more than three decades.
And Bill Ellis and his former coworkers have been helping out in their communities for more than two-thirds of that time, seeking donations for the kids who attend Happy Days each year.
Ellis has kicked off his local campaign to seek donations for the camp, which will be held July 2-9.
Ellis started helping about 1993, he said.
“There was a guy I worked with who has been helping since back in 1989 or around that time,” Ellis said. “He would go and cook some peanuts for the kids, and he did that some for a couple of years and then I and some other coworkers joined him.”
At the time, Ellis worked in Canadys, near Walterboro, for a South Carolina Electric and Gas plant there. He and about 10 of his coworkers would come annually and cook boiled peanuts for the kids for one day during the weeklong camp.
“After I retired, I would handle the area up here in asking for donations, and my coworkers still handled the area down there,” Ellis said.
The company closed, but the effort did not.
“We still get together every year,” he said. “Last year was the first time we were also invited to cook peanuts for Camp Kemo over in Columbia. But Camp Happy Days is going to remain our main focus.”
He said peanuts were the main pastime of the group for more than a decade, until Ellis started asking businesses in Clarendon and Colleton counties about a decade ago to help them put gift bags together for the children at the camp.
The group requests everything from water bottles, pens and pencils to envelopes, toothpaste and sunscreen.
“We ask for anything that a kid might like to have,” Ellis said. “Children just really like stuff. Hats, T-shirts, anything like that. It can have your logo on it. You can provide just about any promotional item you can think of.”
Ellis said since the kids get to attend camp for free, donations are essential.
“We are especially welcoming of monetary donations,” he said.
Executive Director Cindy Hay Johnson said the camp is for children ages 4 to 16 who either have cancer, survived cancer or are a sibling of another child who has had cancer. She said more than 200 campers attend each year, and the cost is about $750 per camper.
“This is provided to the children free-of-charge,” she said. “This is a chance for them to get away from the doctors, from the hospitals and even from the parents.”
Medical help is available – with doctors and nurses volunteering their time each year to help out. There is a ratio of one counselor per five to seven children.
“Camp offers children with cancer a unique chance to meet and bond with other children facing cancer during an amazing week filled with fun, new friends and incredible opportunity,” Johnson said. “From boating and kayaking to the challenges of the high ropes course and climbing wall, children who would normally be unable to attend a traditional summer camp because of their illnesses are free to discover, experience and explore under the careful supervision of a qualified medical team.”
Johnson said Ellis’ fundraising efforts throughout the years have been invaluable to the program.
“He is a veteran volunteer, donor, cheerleader and true supporter of Camp Happy Days,” she said. “On behalf of our organization, he is soliciting items and financial support to help make this amazing week possible for these children.”
To donate, make checks payable to Camp Happy Days and mail to Ellis at 1358 Sportsman Drive, Manning, SC 29102, or call Ellis at (803) 460-7666. Items for bags may also be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at The Manning Times, 230 E. Boyce St. in Manning.