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  • Writer's pictureTerri Tomoff

Tom Baker's Memorial Terrace

Today, I took a lovely sunny Saturday drive with my guys to Front Royal, VA, to the NOVA (Northern Virginia) 4-H Center, the home of Special Love's Signature Camp Fantastic, to unveil the new terrace in memory of its founder, Tom Baker. People special to Tom (his wife and extended family), along with the Special Love staff and several board members, made the trek out to celebrate this impactful occasion in his honor. I'm so happy we went!


When I wrote The Focused Fight: A Childhood Cancer Journey From Mayhem to Miracles, I mentioned quite a bit about Special Love and how inspirational the people we met over 27 years ago. It's the people, both staff and other cancer families, who ended up being a lifeline for us like no other. Tom and Sheila Baker were the catalysts for helping thousands of families like us in over 40 years with its camps (including siblings of cancer survivors, called BRASS) and robust year-long programs to keep cancer kids and their siblings feeling that they are not alone despite devastating diagnoses.


The Bakers had a vision, and there were not that many cancer camps (probably none) in the DC Metro area or around the USA (the first year for Camp Fantastic was in 1983) because the treatment was not anything like today's; many children did not make it. I'm grateful that the Bakers pursued their dream for six years after their daughter Julie died in 1976 of lymphoma. They wanted someplace kids could go and be kids and not worry about their cancer/medicines/weaknesses. Their idea worked and stuck!


Frankly, Camp Fantastic saved my/our son, Ryan, and BRASS Camp saved our daughter, Olivia.


It also saved Bill and me. We are doubly grateful to have built lifetime friendships with the staff, other families, and the plethora of medical personnel who kept Ryan at camp even on his sickest days in mid-August for 12 years straight.


We were delighted to head to Front Royal, VA, this morning to celebrate the new Tom Baker memorial terrace overlooking the Shenandoah Mountains. How could we not?


How! How! I


I'm honored to celebrate the Good in the World by people helping people.


Let me add one more thing: Tom knew instinctively how to Manufacture Sunshine for thousands of cancer families fighting the good fight. I'll always be eternally grateful.


Terri


Photos: 1) Tom Baker Terrace, 2) Unveiling of the Artwork, 3) Kathy Russell (long-time supporter, board member, and helping the Bakers with the start of SL), Ryan, me and Bill, 4) Sheila Baker (seated in pink with her family), 5) Holly Senn (Childlife volunteer), Dave Smith (Senior Dir. of Programs and Outreach), Jan Bresch, executive director, and Ryan (Camp Fantastic Counselor and SL Volunteer), 6) Tom and Marilyn Eichner (long-time volunteers and cancer family).




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