Camp Mak-A-Dream — with its ropes courses, zip-lining, hiking trails and horses — looks the same as any other retreat center in the United States.
But one thing sets it apart: Every participant is someone affected by cancer. Camp is free, except for travel costs.
“We do as many travel scholarships as possible,” says executive director Kim McKearnan. “It depends on our funding and how much we can do.”
We sent photographer Louise Johns into the rolling valleys of Gold Creek, Mont., where she spent a day at Camp Mak-A-Dream with 61 women, plus volunteers. (Some were past attendees.) They came from different states, different stages and different types of cancer. From Sept. 14 to 18, they gathered at Camp Mak-A-Dream to meet other women in similar situations. Johns was immediately welcomed into the family.
“The feeling [there] is a lot of giving, warmth and understanding. This community that they create is incredibly warm and inviting.”
During the five-day retreat, women participated in outdoor activities, workshops, classes and fireside chats. They did everything from silk scarf printing classes to lectures on monkey mind.
The women from a cabin called “Bitterroot” adopted Johns and took her under their wing. They allowed her to see — through their lenses and hers — the joy and delight of their friendships.
“A few of the women expressed to me that this was the place where they found themselves after cancer,” says Johns. “They just feel like this is the best place on earth, and this is home to them because of the women that are there. You can really tell that it means so much to them.”