A camper fishing at Roundup River Ranch

Many times children with serious illnesses are unable to take part in “normal” childhood activities such as going to camp during the summer. This was the inspiration behind Roundup River Ranch, a camp specifically created for these brave children and their families.

Long before the Roundup River Ranch opened, actor Paul Newman started a Hole in the Wall Camp (part of the Serious Fun Children’s Network) in Connecticut. Two members from the Association of the Hole in the Wall Camps, David Horvitz and John Forester, as well as Beth Slifer, a member of the CU Hospital board, and Lia Gore, MD, University of Colorado Cancer Center member and professor of pediatrics, imagined a camp set in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

In 2006 Alison Knapp, a Colorado business woman and philanthropist, started the campaign that would become Roundup River Ranch. It took five years of dedication from staff, volunteers, community and corporate partners for the camp to open for the first time on July 6, 2011.

Gore has been involved in the camp since its inception in 2002.

“I became interested in helping to found the camp long before it became official,” Gore says. “The whole idea was so inspiring, I knew I wanted to help anyway I could.”

Gore is now the chair on the board of directors for the camp and also volunteers her time as one of the camp doctors. She attended the camp in the beginning of July this year. Numerous volunteers from the Anschutz Medical Campus have also participated in the camp. Arthur Liu, MD, radiation oncologist at the CU Cancer Center, has volunteered at camp with Gore for four summers, as have more than 40 University faculty and Children’s Hospital Colorado nurses.

“On average 60 to 70 kids attend the camp each session and that number can go up to 80 people on family weekends. This year, we will serve over 1000 campers,” Gore says. “There are so many fun activities for the kids including fishing, archery, a climbing wall, zip line, arts and crafts, horses, nature discovery, dancing, and much more!”

All of the activities are safe for the children and there is 24/7 medical staff on hand so families do not have to worry about the physical well-being of their child. Gore says, “Volunteer medical and nursing staff are the key to making this a safe and fun experience for the kids. Our goal is to make the medical portion silent so they can just enjoy.”

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Campers at the July 2015 event

“The camp offers kids who are critically ill the opportunity to enjoy the activities and experiences that other kids have. Many of the kids we serve have medical needs that are too complex to be served by other camps,” Gore says. “We have created a safe place for them to have the opportunity to play, enjoy, and have fun!”

In addition to helping the children forget their patient status for a week, and in accordance with Paul Newman’s mandate, Roundup River Ranch is free for everyone who attends thanks to donations. This ensures that every kid has the opportunity to go to camp without having to worry about the cost. To learn more about how to donate please click here.

“I am so honored and thrilled to be a part of this camp,” says Gore. “It is wonderful to watch the kids challenge themselves, make new friends, and have and experiences they might have never imagined.”