HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - If the saying, “birds of a feather flock together” is true, then there’s perhaps no truer place to see it then at Paul B. Johnson State Park in Forrest County in mid-April. That’s when Camp Bluebird perches in the pines.
“The biggest thing that comes out of this thing is the positive attitude,” said Joe Marcello, one of the camp’s directors.
It’s a time and place, over the course of three days, for current and former cancer patients to forget about life’s problems. Instead, they focus on living life, creating an unbreakable bond.
“Everyone’s journey is different and people have different bumps in the road,” said Lagena Everette, who co-directs the camp.
Everette gets to watch it all happen. She sees first hand, the need for patients to let loose and get outside the walls of treatment.
“Even being a cancer nurse, I can tell you ‘yeah, we know how you feel,’ but unless you’ve actually had those treatments, you really don’t see it all. You don’t really know how it feels,” Everette said.
Hosted by Forrest General and Hattiesburg Clinic, the camp has been a way for campers to rest, relax and reconnect for nearly three decades. This past year, the biggest turnout so far, with just more than a hundred campers. Marcello says seeing patients transform during those three days re-energizes their will to live.
“You can sense that they hunger for support that they may not be getting. So, that’s what we do. We give them the support, we give them the fun, we give them the games, we give them the delicious food,” said Marcello.
It’s all paid for through Forrest General, open to all cancer patients and survivors, regardless of where they got treatment. Amid the stories and laughs, there’s also the unforgiving reality of cancer.
“There are some people not around anymore, so you feel a little bit hurt but everybody is there to support each other,” said Marcello. “Everybody is just a big family.”
It’s that support, and family environment, that keeps campers coming back, sharing a smile while fighting a personal battle.