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Campers escape worries, reel in fun on Vashon

Campers at Camp Goodtimes enjoy fishing at the Sportsmen
Campers at Camp Goodtimes enjoy fishing at the Sportsmen's Club.
— image credit: Natalie Johnson

Last Friday morning a quiet pond tucked in the woods behind Vashon Sportsmen’s Club came to life with chattering kids. A mix of children and teens from Camp Goodtimes, some of them were currently battling cancer, others recovering from the disease and others were siblings of those affected by it. But at the pond that day, their main focus was reeling in a rainbow trout.

“The whole thing is to have a week of fun away from any issues they have,” said Larry Goldberg, a camp volunteer.

Camp Goodtimes, which was first held at Camp Sealth 30 years ago and is now based at Camp Burton, draws nearly 200 kids for two free weeklong camps each year. In the past campers have gone fishing at Tramp Harbor, but officials say this is the first summer they’ve fished at the Sportsmen’s Club’s pond. Volunteers who circled the large pond to help kids bait their lines and learn to cast noted that the spot is cooler, safer and more pleasant.

“The longer we’re here, the more connections we make with the community,” said camp director Gus Peterson.

Scenes such as this, however, may not play out on Vashon next year. Peterson said the American Cancer Society (ACS) recently announced it will restructure how it allocates its funding, dedicating more money to cancer research and pulling sponsorship of Camp Goodtimes and other similar camps across the country.

Peterson said a group of camp volunteers and parents was already looking at how it might keep the camp going, possibly establishing a new nonprofit to sponsor it. Doing so, however, would take some serious fundraising, he said. Each year the ACS gives about $1,200 per camper.

Still, Peterson said, he was hopeful this summer wouldn’t be Camp Goodtimes’ last.

“No one wants to see that happen,” he said. “You should never underestimate the power of feeling not alone in this world and what that does.”

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