KINGSTON — At the wheel of the 30-foot pontoon boat, Stewart Matheson was trying to get to where the stripers were biting at Lake Texoma.
At the front of the white boat, Izzy Mauldin was trying to get back to life before Crohn's disease.
Izzy, 11, of Oklahoma City, leaned her head back, closed her eyes and folded her arms across the red vest coloring the yellow Camp Cavett T-shirt.
On this day, she was among about 180 outpatient children — primarily from The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center — with life-threatening and chronic illnesses at the camp. They come from Wednesday through Sunday. Thursday they can fish for stripers, and Saturday is the fish-for-anything derby.
Among other things, Crohn's, an inflammatory bowel disease, draws on Izzy's energy, she said. But her will is strong, like that of the other children around her on the boat.
This fourth-grader just wants to regain as much of the life she had before the disease as she can. Like that day she went fishing with her dad at Lake Hefner and “I caught my first sand bass.”
Camp Cavett also is a way to adjust and enjoy life as it is currently.
“I closed my eyes on the boat because it feels good with the wind. It just makes me happy,” she said, as from the radio came the lyrics, “Life's a dance you learn as you go.”
“Here at the camp I'm getting to see everyone who has these different diseases, and I know that I'm not alone.”
On the other end of the boat, about 10 minutes into fishing, Kacey Guerro-Hawkins, 14, of Oklahoma City, starts reeling in a striper.
In her three or four previous trips to Camp Cavett, she'd caught fish, but never one this big. The girl who a few years ago had surgery for a brain tumor and has since had hip surgery was determined to land this striper.
“He came up and went back down, and I looked at the water and said, ‘You're not getting away from me,' and then I tried to reel him up really fast, and I got him,” Kacey said with a smile.
That grin isn't rare.
“Apparently, in my cabin, I'm the cabin clown,” she said. “I like to make people laugh and feel good inside.”
A lot of people have that goal at Camp Cavett.
‘A bunch of angels'
Each boat has at least one counselor, a boat captain and a helper.