CASCO, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Fifty-three families spent time at a camp in Casco to learn and heal from a rare blood disorder.
The families come from across the country, with a common bond: someone in their family suffers from Fanconi Anemia, a rare blood disorder that can make young children susceptible to a variety of cancers.
Fanconi Anemia is a genetic disease. Many children experience birth defects. It is first identified from having a low blood cell count.
"When you're diagnosed with something that is very rare, you can – in your classroom, at your church, in the town that you live in – there can be no one that has the illness that you have, and you feel very isolated, you feel different than other people," said Nancy Cincotta, the psychosocial director at Camp Sunshine. "Then you come here. It makes you feel so connected in the world and so much like people understand you."
Parents and kids enjoy camp activities together, and sleep in cabins together. Parents also learn from some of the country's top researchers about the disease their child is living with.
"We're all coming from a shared experience where none of us wanted to be in this experience. But all of us are figuring out a way together how to cope with it and how to do the best that we can for our children," said Mike Vangel, a father of two kids who are diagnosed with FA.
Camp Founder Anna Gould wants to help families like the Vangels.
"What the difference I see in the families when they walk in is the stress that they're living with. When they leave, they have a smile on their face because they were able to connect with other families here," said Gould. "To help a little bit and give them a little bit of respite I think is an immeasurable gift that we can give ourselves."
The camp survives mostly on donations and hundreds of volunteers who work there throughout the year.