Camp Wanica’s wonderful foliage, nice facilities and open air atmosphere was the perfect setting for honoring success in — what many who live through it must feel like it is — the ultimate battle.

Surviving cancer and helping someone survive cancer.

Organizers staged the First Annual Survivors and Caregivers Appreciation Day at Camp Wanica Sunday afternoon.

Jamie Kitchen, who is the co-chair this time around for next year’s Relay for Life, is herself a two-year survivor of cancer. Thanks to a trip made by Kitchen and her sister — Edie Pritchett, who is an oncology nurse — to a similar event held after Kitchen completed her own cancer recovery, the idea to bring this celebration home was born.

“It touched us, to see what it was like to be a survivor and to be honored,” Pritchett said, noting her sister became driven to have the same event in Navarro County.

Kitchen said it was an important point in her own life.

“I really enjoyed it and thought we’d like it here,” she said.

As volunteers finished setting up on the Camp Wanica stage, set at the base of a gracefully rolling hill, Pastor Curtis Gilbert had a few words for the small crowd before he gave an opening prayer.

“Also remember your caregivers, your doctors, your family who have watched over you,” Gilbert said.

Organizers put together a full afternoon of things to do and to learn. Booths with information and literature about cancer and its treatments were available. One had a local cancer support group in residence while yet another sported the Reach for Recovery program that aids breast cancer victims through the process.

The area’s team that will participate in a regional three-day walk for breast cancer was in attendance, as was the Road to Recovery program — an effort to provide transportation to and from medical treatments for those battling the dreadful disease.

There were fun things to do as well. Organizers had a cake walk set up, along with face painting, sno cones, a bounce house, kids games, and singing and entertainment.

Rhonda Davis, who is the primary chair for next year’s Relay for Life cancer walk, said the whole afternoon was because of Kitchen’s inspiration.

“It’s something done across the country, but we’ve never had one here,” Davis said. “It’s entirely her idea.”

Kitchen was happy about the day, but already looking to the future of the event.

“We hope it will grow, that more people will come,” she said, looking at the turnout, reasonable but with plenty of Camp Wanica room to grow. “The support of families, corporations and local business has just been great.”


Loyd Cook may be contacted via e-mail at

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