ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Some of the kids at Camp Enchantment, and how they got here:
• “It’s something I have to deal with, and I take pride in what I have,” says Charlie Gunderson, 13, who’ll start eighth grade at the Public Academy for Performing Arts in Albuquerque.
He had surgery when he was 2 to remove a brain tumor the size of an orange pressing against his optic nerve. Describing himself as a spiritual person, he plans to become a Camp Enchantment counselor when he’s 17.
“I skateboard a lot outside and I feel just fine.”
• “My mom has been asking me every summer if I wanted to go yet,” said Serenity Gatlin, 8, of Albuquerque, of Camp Enchantment. When asked if she is a good athlete, she said, “Yeah! I ran to snacks!”
• John Romero, 9, of Albuquerque has never had cancer but, like five other kids, he came to Camp Enchantment as a “buddy” to support a sibling, in his case, his brother Max, 10.
The younger Romero also showed support by donating his hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that turns donated hair into kids’ wigs.
“It was so long and I had all these cool hairstyles I could do, mohawks, ponytails …” he said. Now that it’s shorter, “It’s not like I can whip it back and forth, but it’s kind of nice because when I bend over and eat mashed potatoes, it’s not all in the mashed potatoes.”
• Donovan Griego’s throat cancer formed a golf-ball sized mass, black and white in color, visible when doctors looked down his throat. It was hard for the 15-year-old from Edgewood to breathe or sleep and it changed the sound of his voice.
Of his illness, he said, “It makes me who I am today … a better person … ’cause I feel for others now. I used to not care about much.”