Bill Ellis is a long-time volunteer and supporter of Camp Happy Days. He is known in Clarendon County as a member of the Peanut Gang, a group of men who set up a stand at Camp Bob Cooper each year to boil peanuts for kids while they attend Camp Happy Days.
Based in Charleston, Camp Happy Days is a non-profit organization that has raised 100 percent of its funding throughout its 35 years.
In conjunction with Camp Bob Cooper, Camp Happy Days creates a theme yearly for children ages 4 through 16 who are dealing with cancer, or their siblings. Organized programs ensure each child’s individual needs are met through volunteers who care for each child while he or she attends camps.
Likewise, those children needing medical care have doctors and nurses on hand at Camp Bob Cooper. The only people not allowed, until the final day, is parents.
Ellis began cooking peanuts with the Peanut Gang members in the 1990s in his hometown of Walterboro.
Ellis said that fundraising for Camp Happy Days has become a significant part of his life.
“When I boiled peanuts back in the ‘90s, it used to make kids smile,” said Ellis. “One day, a little boy said to me that a good name for us would be the Peanut Gang. And that name has stuck with us throughout the years.”
After relocating to Manning in 2000 following his retirement, Ellis continued his plight against pediatric cancer. He remained a dedicated year-round supporter the for Kids Kickin’ Cancer, Camp Happy Days and similar programs.
“Kids should be worried about school and playing with their friends,” he said. “They should be thinking about normal childhood things like boyfriends, girlfriends and ball games. This disease robs them of their childhood, and that’s why Camp Happy Days exists.”
Ellis said that he sees the same children each year visit the camp. Some children, however, don’t win their battles with cancer and are unable to make it to camp the following year.
“One of the most popular events with the kids is when volunteers from the community visit the campers during camp week,” Ellis said. “The volunteers will style the female campers’ hair, and do their nails (to get) ready for the children’s big prom event.”
According to the Childhood Cancer Organization, more than 15,780 children from birth through 19 years of age are diagnosed with cancer each year. And in the United States, more children die from childhood cancer than any other disease.
“You never know about a kid who runs past you laughing,” Ellis said. “Either he or she may be suffering from cancer, or may have a sibling with the disease. He or she is laughing at that moment, but no one but that child and family members know the pain and suffering pediatric cancer and the treatments cause.”
For information about Camp Happy Days or to donate, please go to www.camphappydays.org or call (843) 571 4336.