April 15, 2015, Cornville, AZ – Words that have definition don’t always having meaning. Service, citizenship, “… to do my duty to God and my country…” have meaning to a 14 year-old boy who wants to reach his Eagle Scout rank. Thanks to Camp Soaring Eagle, Christopher Mercado of Ahwatukee learned the meaning behind the definition. Camp Soaring Eagle (CSE), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide healing laughter to seriously ill children by providing them an opportunity to go to a medically supervised camp at no cost to the campers and their families. Christopher’s mom signed him up for CSE for “Sibling Camper Weekend” wanting him to connect with kids his age whose siblings also have a serious medical condition. His twin brother Tyler was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2013.
Christopher reluctantly attended the camp in May of 2014, but returned enthusiastically from the wonderful time he had. He attributed this to the awesome volunteer counselors. He could not believe college students, firemen, policemen, doctors, and nurses actually gave up a weekend to be with teens. The volunteers sparked something in Chris because he wants to return as a camp counselor when he gets older. He was amazed that all the volunteers were focused on providing a happy experience for them. They showed him the true meaning of service and citizenship. Those words are not just a “duty” because he could see the exponential benefits of putting people first. Chris was determined to help CSE so other kids have the opportunity to get away from the pressures of family life with a chronically ill sibling.
Families with children with respiratory, hematology, oncology conditions are often burdened with large medical bills and can’t afford to send their child to a medically supervised camp. Often the siblings of those children don’t feel like they get enough attention. But thanks to CSE, the parents, the ill child and the siblings all get a short sabbatical from the daily pressures. All this is supported by generous donors.
In order for Christopher to achieve his Boy Scout Eagle rank, he has to demonstrate leadership to others while performing a project that benefits his community. Chris had no doubt that he wanted to do something impactful for CSE. The camp recently purchased property in Cornville, AZ and needed more developed outdoor areas. The Executive Director of Camp Operations, Juan Morales and Christopher decided that he should build a fire pit and ten wooden benches to create a mini-amphitheater. “It was wonderful to talk to Chris about his offer to do a project for us. Now we have an outdoor area that will be great for all the kids to enjoy,” said Morales.
Christopher is hopeful that he will be getting his Eagle Scout rank later this year. This project meant more to him than finishing a requirement to achieve this rank. Chris and his Troop 78 worked on the fire pit for a weekend but Chris returned for several weekends to help get the camp ready for their first spring weekend camp. He only had one weekend with CSE but that one experience touched his life. He even thanked his mother for signing him up for that weekend. Chris wanted to give back to all the wonderful people at CSE and provide the opportunity for others to experience the joy he and his brother found during their time with CSE.
Currently there are more than 311,000 children in Arizona living with special health care needs. Camp Soaring Eagle provides medically safe camping programs to children ages 6-15 with serious illnesses and their families. Camp Soaring Eagle runs illness specific camping sessions where campers are accompanied by specialized pediatric nurses, doctors and volunteers.