Photo by Sally Hedberg

For children ages 9 to 15 who endure and suffer from cancer, nearby Camp Ronald McDonald for the Good Times provides them and their siblings a time to be normal.


“This is the main thrust of our camp,” said Brian Crater, the associate executive director, who has been affiliated with this camp since 1994. Located in Apple Valley Canyon, Mountain Center, it was formerly Camp Roosevelt.

“Camp Ronald McDonald has been in operation for 30 years but since that time we have changed our focus,” explains Crater. “We used to have separate camps for cancer patients and their siblings. Our thought was they needed to have a break from each other. But later we found that when the patients and their siblings came together and met other children in their same circumstances some positive sharing took place. Cancer changes the whole family dynamic and often the siblings become responsible for doing adult chores like the laundry, cooking, and watching younger children while their parents are at the hospital."

Ronald McDonald Camp Director Brian Crater, sits among a group of kids with cancer and their siblings during craft time. Photo by Sally Hedberg

Most young cancer patients relate better to adults — doctors, nurses, and social workers — than their peers because that’s who they see on a regular basis. Camp activities such as fishing, archery, horseback riding, swimming, sports, crafts, and cooking classes give each child the opportunity to learn survival skills and to live as normal a life as possible.


There’s great emphasis on partnering with parents. They’re naturally reluctant to have their child diagnosed with cancer away at camp. To help families adjust and spend time away in these beautiful surroundings, two camp weekends are provided for the families with children from infancy to ten years old and several sessions are available just for Spanish speaking families.

The camp is free, however; the cost per child for the six-day session is about $900. These costs are low because the staff, except for five seasonal workers, are all volunteers. This includes the 60 counselors and a Medical Center with doctors and nurses who volunteer during their vacations to be at camp around the clock. A total of 700 campers attend the five summer sessions from July through August.

On Saturday, Aug. 11, the Valley Wide Kayak Club held its 11th Annual Charity Paddle at Lake Hemet to raise money again for the camp. Crater was there to treat the kayakers to a hamburger lunch. He thanked the group.

“Your efforts have provided children impacted with cancer the opportunity to find support while giving them the chance to be the child that cancer tries to steal from them,” Crater said thanking the paddlers. “Your efforts have given these children endless laughter, hugs and the chance to meet and gain support from others that understand their daily challenges from this life threatening disease. Thank you for giving our campers hope!”

Diane Boss, Charity Paddle Chair, said more information on Valley Wide Kayak Club is available at

To learn more about Camp Ronald McDonald, and to donate funds or volunteer time and skills go to or call (951) 659-4609.