The Honourary Chair for this year’s Relay For Life Event in Cranbrook, is a young woman who’s childhood brush with cancer put her on a path to friendship, fun and learning the joy of giving back.
Ashlie Kleisdorff was born and raised in Cranbrook, she spent her “summers camping, hiking, and going to the beach. [She] grew up surrounded by Mountains, forests and lakes and… couldn’t imagine living anywhere without.”
Ashlie was just twelve years old when her mother found a black mole on her back. After having it removed, doctors found that it a malignant melanoma – skin cancer. At that time, Ashlie was the youngest person to be diagnosed with that kind of cancer. Ashlie has been cancer free since her melanoma was removed but she has yearly check-ups with a dermatologist who specializes in cancer.
Ashlie remembers getting the cancer diagnosis “At the time it was scary…”. In an effort to keep her spirits up her doctors referred her to the Canadian Cancer Society and their Camp Goodtimes Program for children affected by cancer. She first applied in 2009 when she was 13 years old and has been going every year since.
Camp Goodtimes is a summer recreation program that provides a unique summer experience for children and teens affected by cancer and their families. Set in the scenic landscape of Loon Lake in Maple Ridge, Camp Goodtimes provides a safety-focused, fun, recreational program at no cost to participants. Camp Goodtimes is accredited by the British Columbia Camping Association and the Canadian Association of Pediatric Oncology Camps (CAPOC). Visit www.campgoodtimes.org for more information and to apply online.
As Ashlie puts it “Camp Goodtimes is one of the few places where kids with cancer can go where the people around them understand what they are going through, are able to relate, and don’t look at them as ‘different’. Everyone at Camp GoodTimes is equal and they make sure that nobody is discriminated or feels lesser than the ones around them.
For example, there are many kids who have no hair or have lost limbs because of cancer, but in all the years I have been there I have never once heard someone be put down because of these differences, everyone is accepted.
All kids are accepted, welcomed, and get to feel ‘normal’ just like any other kid going to camp for one week out of their summer.”
Ashlie has been attending Camp Goodtimes for the last 6 years. She did three years in the Kid Camp and three in the Teen Camp, where she was also able to participate in the Leader in Training Program (LIT).
“The LIT program is an opportunity for youth to get the experience of volunteering without the responsibility of being in charge. It provides youth with the knowledge and experience to be in charge of others as well as how to take charge of his/her own life.” Ashlie is very excited as she just turned 19, which means that this year she will be able to attend as a volunteer and help run the camp.
Remarks Ashlie “As a camper I could see how much Camp Goodtime gave to everyone there (not just the survivors, but the siblings, families and the volunteers as well) and knowing how it felt have that given to me, I wanted to give back. I wanted to be the one to turn someone’s life around over just one week of the summer the way I could see the other volunteers do in all the years I was there.”
Ashlie has great plans for the future and is making the most of her life.
“Two years ago I went to Brazil on a Rotary Youth Exchange” says Ashlie and “I hope to get into the Sonography program (ultrasound technician) in the fall of 2017, but in the meantime I will attend COTR to get some university transfer courses. I have spent the last couple of years volunteering at Joseph Creek and the East Kootenay Regional Hospital. My experience at Camp GoodTimes has influenced my desire to volunteer in all aspects of my life.”
Despite facing a cancer diagnosis of her own, Ashlie found that her “biggest Cancer journey has been through Camp GoodTimes and meeting with kids there.
“It made me realizing what others have gone through/going through and how cancer can so drastically affect someone’s life,” she said, as she turned one of the scariest times in her life into a drive to help others, make a difference and experience life to the fullest.
So please join Ashlie, all the participants, survivors and volunteers at this year’s Relay for Life in Cranbrook – Saturday June 4th , 4:30 to 10:30pm. Your support will help to fund Camp Goodtimes amongst many other programs, services and research grants.