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Benefactor wowed by Camp Adventure


It was one thrilling day as Camp Adventure took over much of the Camp Quinipet site Saturday with benefactor Theresa Roemer on hand to greet Kaela Cruz, a camper whose fees she paid this year.Ms. Roemer , a Texas socialite, had organized a fund raiser last November after hearing about the camp from long-time volunteer Jennifer Kirsh.

Ms. Roemer ran a “by-invitation-only” fundraiser in Houston to benefit the camp at a time when most of her backers knew nothing of Camp Adventure’s program for kids with cancer and their siblings.

Kaela, 12, of Sayerville, New Jersey, was diagnosed with bone cancer and had her left leg amputated above the knee as a life-saving measure.

She was all smiles as she ran into Ms. Roemer’s arms Saturday afternoon.

Kaela has been cancer free for more than seven years and tells her story of surviving to audiences to raise money to help other pediatric cancer patients.

Watching the campers engage in group games Saturday night, there was little to evidence that this was a program designed to give sick children a chance at a normal week of fun instead of the long hospital stays they have endured.

Seeing the kids engage in activities convinced Ms. Roemer that she will return to Camp Adventure for a longer stay in the future and will sponsor more fund-raising events to help keep the program afloat.

Last year, she knew little about the program and her backers knew less, never having heard of Camp Adventure.

She has now primed them with pictures she took throughout her overnight stay hoping that once they see how their money is being used, they will be even more generous in the future.

“You should bring a whole plane load” of people next year, Ms. Kirsh told her.

There will be a week of activities — special events and typical camp fun like swimming, playing ball and hiking.

Among the special visitors will be former Yankee great Bernie Williams accompanied by representatives of the YES Network.

Mr. Williams, who played center field for the Yanks from 1991 to 2006, is also a classically-trained guitarist who will be bringing guitars and drums for the campers, according to co-director Melissa Firmes-Ray. Since completing his baseball career, Mr. Williams has released two jazz albums.

His visit will precede the annual memorial service, a tribute to those who have lost their battles with cancer.

On Tuesday, the camp’s annual shaving cream fight will engage the kids, to be followed by the Shelter Island wash-down. At night, firefighters will return to host a barbecue.

On Tuesday, former Radio City Music Hall Rockette Lucille Naar-Saladino, who now runs Main Stage Dance Academy in Greenport, volunteered to teach some steps to the campers.

Ms. Firmes-Ray and Camp Adventure co-director David Lewis — a police officer, volunteer firefighter and EMT — run the camp program. When the American Cancer Society had to drop camp funding because of its own lack of money a few years ago, the pair created worked with other volunteers to create Kids Need MoRE, a tax-deductible foundation to raise money to keep the program running.

In an ironic twist for someone who has spent years helping children with cancer, last fall, Ms. Firmes-Ray was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She was fortunate to get a life-saving stem cell transplant from a stranger and is back at camp, if slowed a bit as her recovery continues.

“I’m not special because I do the work that I do,” Ms. Firmes-Ray said at the time of her diagnosis.

“I’m excited with a lot of adrenalin flowing,” Ms. Firmes-Ray said.

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