Camp: a four-letter word that spells the chance for good times away from home for school-weary youngsters.
But at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, children who have been treated for cancer can feel like they have found home again.
"Our daughter, Stacey, didn't want to come home from Camp Ronald McDonald," said Sandra Charlebois of Yorba Linda at a benefit fashion show Thursday at the Irvine Hilton. "It gave her a social life she didn't have, gave her a quality of life her family couldn't. We were all so busy trying to cope with the whole disaster (of her cancer). It was the only positive thing that happened during her illness."
The $35 per-person event, sponsored by Nordstrom of South Coast Plaza, attracted 600 guests. It marked the first time a fund-raiser has been held in the Orange County area for the camp, which operates from a rented ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara County.
According to Pepper Edmiston of Brentwood, Ronald McDonald camp founder and mother of a 13-year-old son with leukemia, the camp has afforded children the chance to be understood.
"When you have a sick child, you can buy him toys, take him to Hawaii, do a million things. But you can't buy him a friend who understands what he is going through. Only a child with cancer himself can do that."
Sandra Charlebois said her daughter, Stacey, died of complications from chemotherapy in 1985. Stacey's twin sister, Heather, 13, attended Thursday's benefit.
"I was jealous of Stacey when she got to go to Ronald McDonald's," said Heather, standing beside her grandmother, Searl Stock, during the pre-luncheon reception. "She got to do a lot of things, and I got stuck at home. Even though I didn't mind."
Sister Wants Role
Stacey wouldn't stop talking about camp when she came home, Heather said. "She went on and on about the horseback riding and the animals. She loved the rabbits best." Heather hopes to become a counselor at Camp Ronald McDonald when she turns 18.
Edmiston said the camp, whose offices are in Los Angeles, operates on an annual budget of $800,000. "And we're responsible for raising all of the money," said the camp director, who is expecting her seventh child in three weeks. "It's wonderful to finally come to Orange County."
She estimated proceeds from the fashion show and luncheon at $21,000--"enough to send 40 children to camp for one week."