Camp Genesis Camper Shares Story - Genesis Health System

Published on February 10, 2020

Group posed with donation check

Camp Genesis Camper Shares Story

Jackson Ruiz slammed a game-winning home run in the last baseball game he played with his grandfather, Papa Jim, in attendance. It will likely be an unforgettable moment for Jackson.

In 2017, Jackson lost his paternal grandfather, John, to cancer. In 2019, Papa Jim also died from cancer.

That’s tough for anyone, but especially for a 10-year-old. For two years, Jackson was part of the cancer battles that his grandfathers went through.

Gilda’s Club Quad Cities and Camp Genesis helped Jackson at a time when he needed a break.

“They came into our lives at just the right time,’’ said Jackson’s mom, Emily. “When Grandpa John passed away after a long battle with lung cancer, our family was devastated. Six weeks later, my dad, Papa Jim, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.

“Our three children were thrust into a world where infusions, treatments, and chemo were part of the daily conversation. Jackson seemed to grow up overnight, seeking opportunities to help his family and taking on responsibilities most kids don’t understand.’’

A Special Camp Experience

The goal of Camp Genesis is to reach out to young people going through the experience Jackson has experienced. The camp is unique in the region. It offers a traditional summer camp experience but also features cancer support, education and information provided by staff from Gilda’s Club Quad-Cities. One of the highlights is a road trip to learn more about cancer treatment and cancer-fighting technology available from the Genesis Cancer Care Institute.

“When we visited Genesis you had a bunch of kids playing with million-dollar machines. What could go wrong?’’ Jackson joked. “I love Camp Genesis. Camp Genesis is a vacation from hearing about cancer all of the time and all the kids at camp have the same experiences.’’

Jackson was a star at a recent news conference announcing a donation of $50,000 to the Genesis Foundation from the Quad Cities River Bandits for projects serving babies and children in the region.

The donation helps Genesis support camp, the neonatal intensive care unit, Flu-Free Quad Cities and Family Connects.

Flu-Free Quad Cities provides free seasonal influenza vaccinations to thousands of elementary school students in the region. Family Connects provides visiting nurse home visits to infants and moms.

River Bandits Give Back

“The River Bandits are so fortunate to be able to donate to projects that help determine the future health of our children,’’ said Dave Heller, co-owner of the River Bandits. “As an organization, we share a strong passion to give back to the community.

“This hits close to home for me personally. Both of our boys spent time in the NICU.’’

Jackson is already looking forward to returning to Camp Genesis this summer.

Camp Genesis applications can be found at gildasclubqc.org. For information, call Gilda’s Club Quad Cities at (563) 326-7504.

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