A longtime camp for children who have been diagnosed with cancer is looking for a new sponsor after 28 years.
The American Cancer Society is pulling funding for Camp Goodtimes East in Post Falls, Idaho, just east of Spokane, said camp director Kari Allen.
The camp is provided at no cost to 139 children each year, most of whom are or have been sick, as well as some family members and friends.
"They are redoing a lot of things," Allen said of the American Cancer Society. "They want to put more money into research to try to cure cancer."
Melanie O'Brien of Burbank is picking up her daughter Lauren, 12, at Camp Goodtimes East today, the last day of its annual weeklong session. She recently received a letter from the American Cancer Society telling her this would be the last year.
"I was definitely devastated, and she was devastated," Melanie O'Brien said. "The kids look forward to camp every year."
Six of the campers are from the Mid-Columbia, Allen said. Another half-dozen Tri-City area residents are among the 85 volunteers. Allen is the only paid staffer at the camp, which switched in 2005 to volunteer management.
The American Cancer Society is trying to find someone to keep Camp Goodtimes East open, agency spokeswoman Lisa Bade said.
"At this time, we're working with community leaders on transition plans that will enable the camp to continue in 2014 and beyond," Bade said.
Closing the camp is part of a difficult decision for the society, which plans to end its camp and college scholarship programs by the end of 2013, she said.
Allen believes a new sponsor will come forward for the camp, which has a $170,000 annual budget.
"It might look a little different, it might be a little smaller," she said before reciting the camp motto -- "Until there's a cure, there's a camp."
Many of the children have been treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital in Spokane. The hospital provides three doctors and six nurses who volunteer on rotations at the camp, Allen said. They monitor the campers, who participate in activities such as swimming, boating, archery and arts and crafts.
Camp Goodtimes East uses the Ross Point Baptist Camp facilities, along the Spokane River.
Lauren O'Brien is attending her seventh Camp Goodtimes. She was referred there by workers at Sacred Heart, where Lauren was being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, her mother said.
After attending day camp there for two years, Lauren, who is in remission, has been going to the overnight camp since.
"She loves Camp Goodtimes and has made a lot of memories and a lot of friends," Melanie O'Brien said.
The camp also allows Lauren to keep up with some of the nurses who helped her when she was sick, her mother said.
Melanie O'Brien looks forward all year to a ceremony the kids conduct on the last day of the camp.
"The kids are so inspirational," she said. "They have some pretty amazing stories."