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Camp Rainbow Gold

Idaho’s only medically designed, accessible and adaptive camp

Article by Lonni Leavitt-Barker

Photography by Lonni Leavitt-Barker

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

As if being a teen doesn’t come with enough challenges. Imagine spending Friday night in the hospital instead of attending the big game, missing adventures with friends, adding steroids that make you gain extra weight, and chemotherapy that makes you go bald.

That’s why so many of Camp Rainbow Gold campers, family, and friends say they are thankful for Camp. 

The Idaho nonprofit started when a boy was told he couldn’t attend summer camp with his friends because he had cancer. Now 39 years later, Camp Rainbow Gold serves approximately 400 Idaho family members who endured - or are now facing - a pediatric cancer diagnosis. The nonprofit provides college scholarships, teen support, family activities, and camps for children with cancer, teens, siblings, and families.

“For a week I get to hang out with people who understand what happened,” said 15-year-old Marissa Daigle who was diagnosed with cancer at age 10. “We get to learn about each other and empathize, and not be judged. I’ve had friends who passed away from cancer and that really sucked. And then, seeing other kids here, you can tell they are struggling, but they still want to be here.”

This summer marked Marissa’s 4th year at Camp. A week filled with old friends and new, water fights, archery, canoeing, bikes, horses, dancing, cabin pranks, and one epic lip sync contest, where one of her friends, Reese, instead of dropping the mic, dropped her crutches.

Teen Oncology Camper Alexia Rowley, age 17, added, “[Camp] means a lot. I look forward to it all the time and talk about it year-round. I think what I like most about camp is that it is not just for the kids who are affected by cancer. The families are affected by it just as much as we are. So, I love how they have the family camps and sibling camps as well.”

Today, Camp Rainbow Gold is building Hidden Paradise — Idaho’s only medically designed, accessible and adaptive camp—home to Camp Rainbow Gold programs and other nonprofits across Idaho. 

Retired NFL quarterback and Idaho resident, Carson Palmer has joined the team to get this new medical camp built. Palmer shared, “In Idaho, we’re lucky to have mountains, lakes, fresh air, and nature. And this opportunity is so special for kids who have been living under the bright lights of hospitals, to get outside, and be a kid and go to camp like my kids are going to camp this summer, and like I went to camp as a kid.”

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