By Eric Todd
Last month, myself and a few of my strongman confederates (USAWA member Lance Foster among them) were blessed with being able to perform once again for the kids of Camp Quality. Camp Quality is a Camp for children who have cancer. We have done this show several times before, and it is always a humbling experience. This year was no exception.
We lifted axles with truck tires, bent nails, tore phone books and decks of cards, bent steel bars, and broke padlocks and concrete blocks. I even did a teeth lift with a 180ish# atlas stone using my Al Myers constructed teeth bit. The show went off without a hitch.
Upon completion of the show, one of the directors got on the mic to give us accolades for all we had done for the camp throughout the years from these shows, to raising money for them with “The Gus Lohman Memorial Strongman Challenge”, to my being a companion for a camper there 20 years ago.
It was my experience as a companion that committed me to helping out the cause there at Camp Quality. I went into the experience not really knowing what to expect. My camper was a little guy about 14 years old. He was just out of chemo, so he was bald and weak, and had to report to the nurse’s station intermittently throughout the day. However, because of his condition we were given a golf cart to navigate the campgrounds on for the week.
The week came and went. There were many activities offered for the campers. It had the capacity to be a tremendous experience. However, my camper was unable to do some, and did not have the strength or energy for others. When I said goodbye to him at the end of the week as he boarded the big yellow schoolbus, I felt as if he had not really gotten much out of his week with me at camp. I wished I could have done more.
That following spring the phone rang. It was a representative of Camp Quality with the sad news that my camper had succumb to his cancer. His visitation/funeral was that week. They wondered if I would attend one, or if they should send another representative from Camp Quality. I felt it was my job, so I went. When I got to the visitation, the line was immense, winding out of the church, down a sidewalk, and out into the parking lot. This gave me a long time to ponder what I would say to his parents. I had never met them. I had only spent a week with their son in what seemed to be an experience that could not have been that enjoyable for him.
Finally I got to the front of the line. I had to tell the parents who I was. When I said I had been their son’s companion at Camp that year, the mother’s eyes lit up. She said, “Wait here!” So I waited. When she returned, she handed me the handbill for his funeral. As I turned it over, I saw the picture of him and I that was taken at Camp Quality. She told me, “When he got back from camp, all he could talk about was the big, strong guy who was his companion this year.” I walked away from this day very humbled. I guess the moral of this story is that you maybe never really know when you are making a difference, whether it be for the good or the bad. You never know who is looking to you to see how you handle yourself or to you as a role model. So, don’t foul it up!