Camp Magical Moments celebrates 10th anniversary

Anna, 11, tries her hand at archery, Monday at Camp Magical Moments in Swan Valley. Campers also get to go horse-back riding and explore art projects, among other things. Twenty-five children came to camp this year, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It was founded by Ann Walsh, a former American Cancer Society employee.

EDITOR’S NOTE: At the request of Camp Magical Moments, the Post Register is not publishing full names of the children interviewed for this story.

SWAN VALLEY — Summer camp can be a time for children to find new friends and create memories.

For the children at Camp Magical Moments, it’s also a chance to bond over a common experience. All of the children have cancer or have had cancer.

Kaleb, an 11-year-old from Victor, said he enjoys meeting children who have been through similar experiences.

“This is my fifth year coming here,” he said. “I like meeting new kids here and love all the activities and games. Camp is something I look forward to every summer.”

Ann Walsh, director and founder of Camp Magical Moments, started it 10 years ago after moving to Swan Valley from Alabama. The camp is open to children 7 to 12 who have battled cancer. There is no fee to attend the camp, which is staffed by volunteers.

“I worked for the American Cancer Society before, and this has been something important to me,” Walsh said. “My husband and I bought this ranch after we moved out here. When we got here I told him, ‘We’re going to turn this into an oncology summer camp.’ We’re excited because this is our 10th year.”

Walsh sought to create a place where children could experience something they might otherwise miss out on.

“Some of the kids here wouldn’t be able to go to a summer camp if Magical Moments didn’t exist,” Walsh said. “We have three medical professionals on our staff, and we’re able to make sure the kids’ medical needs are being met.”

Twenty-five children and 45 volunteers, attended camp this week. Activities started Sunday and will wrap up Saturday.

For Walsh, being around the children is the most rewarding part of the experience.

“It’s so fun to see the kids when they get here,” Walsh said. “When the returning kids get here, and their faces light up once they see friends; or volunteers who have been here before. When the first-time campers get here, it’s great to see them experience the new things. I love seeing that.”

For Kaleb, camp gives him some time to relax away from his family.

“I love all the activities and it’s fun to be able to get away from my family, too, that’s always a nice thing about coming to camp.”

Kaleb, 11, will be able to attend camp one more year. Next year, when turns 12, Kaleb will graduate in a ceremony at the end of the week.

While Kaleb is nearing the end of his summers at Camp Magical Moments, 7-year-old Olive is only beginning her time as a camper.

“I’m glad I got to come,” Olive said. “Meeting other kids is fun and I’ve liked the activities, especially the painting.”

The Pocatello girl said the best part of art class is getting messy.

“I got my hands covered in paint,” she said. “Today, I got to make a tie-dye shirt. It’s really cool.”

The camp is the only oncology camp in eastern Idaho and often gets campers from Utah and Wyoming, Walsh said.

Once, Walsh said, a camper came from Pennsylvania. There is no geographical requirement to attend the camp.

Throughout the week, campers practice archery, ride horses and tackle art projects. Campers also visit Brigham Young University-Idaho, where they participate in a rope course on the campus. They also do some swimming at Heise Hot Springs.

Walsh said it’s good to see the children forget about their troubles, if only for a short time.

“It’s fun to see them get to be kids,” Walsh said. “We have a campfire every night for the kids. It’s fun to see them laugh and joke around.”