A causal stroll between a father and son down the hallway at Rockwell Elementary is no big deal, right? But it wasn't so long ago that Matt Hall and his wife, Brady, got news that made Matt wonder if he'd ever see days like these at all.
"It was a shock,” said Matt. “It felt like all of the air left the room when we heard it."
What they heard was that their 3-year-old son, Shep, had leukemia.
Once considered incurable, survival rates for some childhood leukemia have jumped to more than 90 percent. Shep, now 9 years old, fell into that category. Thanks to treatment at USA Children's and Women's Hospital, Shep has been cancer free now for nearly 2 years.
It's something he'll never forget. And not all of the memories are difficult ones thanks to Camp-Rap-A-Hope. It's a non-profit summer camp that offers free FUN for children who have or have had a cancer diagnosis. Shep's been twice, and loves it.
"Oh, yeah, I'm definitely going next year," he said enthusiastically. “The food there is very good, actually. They give out free hot dogs at the bar. You can swim and canoe and you can fish!"
No doubt about it, Camp Rap-A-Hope is a big hit with the kids. But talk to the parents long enough and you'll realize it helps them cope, too.
"And when you get there you see the smile on their face because they're excited for the opportunity,” said Matt. “And the smile on their face when you go to pick them up a week later - that just warms your heart."
Shep is a survivor, but he's also an encourager, making sure his fellow campers who are dealing with cancer realize hope is a very real thing.
"I encourage them a lot,” he said. “Like if they're scared to do something I encourage them to do it."
Without even realizing it, he's part of the summer magic that is Camp Rap-A-Hope.
If you’d like to support Camp Rap-A-Hope, why not participate in the 5K Turkey Trot and Gobble Wobble Fun Run for Camp Rap-A-Hope?
The run steps off Thanksgiving morning at 8 a.m. at Mardi Gras Park.