KINGSTON — At 7:10 on a recent morning, Danny Cavett's voice carried throughout the dock area at Catfish Bay Marina at Lake Texoma: “The kids are here.”
Cavett is chaplain at The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center. He also is the man for whom the Cavett Kids Foundation based at OU Medical Center is named. The foundation's mission is to provide camps, including Camp Cavett at Lake Texoma, and other events for children who have life-threatening and chronic illnesses.
As the doors on the large white buses opened, fishing guides and other volunteers line up along one side of the walkway from the parking lot to the dock.
Within minutes, children wearing life jackets walk with their boat captains and camp volunteers to the boats.
“Down here or wherever we're at, we use whatever they have to offer to teach kids about how to cope, about character and connection,” Cavett said. “This morning at Camp Cavett, we're using the fishing experience.”
About one-third of the children had never been on a boat or been fishing, he said.
“So they will be learning a little patience today, a little character stuff,” Cavett said. “Whatever we do we try to emphasize things that will help them in life.”
Camp started in '93
Cavett has had this camp since 1993, and it is now at its capacity with 180 children, he said.
“It takes a lot of work, a lot of volunteers,” he said. “You're talking about the striper guides here, they have to take off work to come and just give their time to us. So, that's about 50 boats here for this one.”
On Saturday, they aim for about 90 boats provided by volunteers, said Gene Gilliland, of the North Oklahoma City Bassmasters Club.
“That's because it's a tournament situation where the kids get all kinds of trophies,” Cavett said. “And with the bass boats, we're limited to about two kids per boat.”
The overall camp, based nearby at the Cross Point United Methodist Camp, requires about 200 volunteers, which includes nurses and doctors, Cavett said.
“These kids have chronic illnesses like cancer, cystic fibrosis, Crohn's disease and others,” he said. “They all have the common things that every chronic illness would have. You've got to take your medicine, you've got to watch your diet and there are all of these limitations. At this camp we want to teach them how to get out in life, so we have their medications, but we just put it like ‘We can't get into the water until everyone takes their medicine.'
“Also you put them together with the different chronic illnesses. They see what others are experiencing.”
Here they aren't referred to by their illness, but rather the name on their name tags.
Brianna Beck, 16, who has severe asthma, is at her sixth camp. Her mother, Anne Beck, is a nurse at Children's Hospital and volunteers at the camp, as does Brianna's sister, Alyssa, 15.
“It's nice because you don't have to worry about being defined by an illness,” Brianna said. “You're not given sympathy just because you're sick or because you have something wrong with you.
“You're actually seen as a person, and that is good.”