Camp Sundown a ‘lights out’ success

Large Lego blocks among the attractions for affected kids

CAMPBELL HALL – Summer. For almost all of us, the word is synonymous with warm weather, bright sun and time spent outdoors grilling, swimming, playing sports and just generally soaking in large amounts of vitamin D.

We also soak in large amounts of UV rays from the sun, but hardly notice. For a select number of people, however, this blissful reality is turned on its head; and not just during the summer months, but all throughout the year.

For those that suffer with Xeroderma Pigmentosum, or XP, the sun, even on a cool mild day, is something to which they simply cannot be exposed.

XP is a rare genetic condition that approximately one in 250,000 has, a condition that leads to severe third-degree burns and various skin and eye cancers when exposed to the sun’s UV rays. Those who suffer from XP generally do not go out during the day, and if they do, they must lather in sunscreen and wear layer upon layer of clothing, as any exposed skin can lead to severe burns.

While there is no cure for XP, camps like Camp Sundown do offer a chance, however brief, for the kids who suffer from this disorder that effectively robs them of being able to be and do what kids naturally do; go and play outside.

Brent McFarland came with his son, who has the condition.

“It’s a way for him to escape from the daily routine of trying to hide from the sun because they do everything indoors and out in the evening, so it’s just a chance for him to be a kid and interact with some of the kids that have the same type of condition that he has,” McFarland said.

With ice cream, truck rides, McDonalds, hot dogs, watermelon, bunnies, snakes, rabbits, dogs and other animals abound, the atmosphere inside Campbell Hall Firehouse where Thursday’s camp was held from 10 p.m. Thursday to 1 a.m. Friday, was festive, high energy and just plain fun.

While the plan was to hold it at Hamptonburgh Pavilion, the threat of inclement weather brought this year’s camp, the 23rd annual, indoors.

“We get campers from all over,” Luanne Meade, one of the coordinators whose been working with Camp Sundown since its second year said. “We have campers from as far as Canada and as near as New York State.”

This year there were about 30 to 40 campers in attendance, which is about the norm according to Meade. Live music was provided by Erock Entertainment. Also there, Legoland and Paul Teutel Jr. who brought some of his custom cycles.

Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit organization that raises puppies to be guild dogs and other types of working dogs was in attendance, with Meade’s daughter, Kyle Meade, herself a dog raiser in attendance. Joining Kyle was her nine-month-old current student, a female black lab named Inka.

“We teach the dogs among many other things not to pick anything up off the floor, since a blind person of course wouldn’t know if they ate something off the floor they weren’t supposed to,” the younger Meade said. “Many of our dogs also go on to be police dogs, as well as bomb detection and even pets.”

Based in Westchester, the local region, of which Kyle is a part, meets and trains in Goshen. It takes an estimated $50,000 to train a single dog, which is then given to a person in need at absolutely no cost.

“This is done all through private donations and volunteers,” Fellow coordinator Joseph Volkmer of the Campbell Hall Firehouse said. “This is something we look forward to every year and we know it means a lot to the kids.”

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