A lot more than just fun in the sun
They’re taking it one “Dream Day” at a time: Brewster camp offers vacation-respite for individuals fighting cancer and other diseases
In 1993 Tim Falvey founded Dream Day on the Sound in his native state of Connecticut. His mission was to provide a brief period of respite and relaxation for patients who were undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments, and a continuous cycle of hospital visits associated with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. A resident of Groton, Connecticut and a tugboat captain, Falvey succumbed to cancer at the age of 37 in May of 1993. To honor him, his friend Margaret Kennedy created Dream Day on Cape Cod later that year, and the camp’s mission has lived on—here on the Cape—for more than 20 years.
Dream Day on Cape Cod—which is held at Camp Nan-Ke-Rafe in Brewster—serves families who have a member that is coping with a life-threatening disease or chronic illness. “We want to serve as many families as we can,” says David Hudnall, the camp’s director. “We know there are a lot of families that need help, and we want to provide as many as we can with a free weekend getaway to the Cape.”
Since its inception, Dream Day on Cape Cod has served more than 300 families from countries around the world. “An opportunity to come here for a week is something we truly need and appreciate,” one Dream Day parent wrote to the organization. “The property is a diamond in the rough,” another parent wrote. “We come here for the camaraderie, the love, and the woods.”
Eligible candidates must be 18 years of age, or younger, and must have a severe, chronic medical condition or serious illness that significantly affects their day-to-day life. Applications are available online and are reviewed on an ongoing basis. Once accepted, the week’s stay and activities are provided free of charge, with preference given to new families and families from the Cape and Islands. Typically, 48 familes per summer enjoy a “Dream Day” on the Cape experience.
According to Hudnall, Dream Day on Cape Cod relies heavily on the generosity of private sponsors as well as grants and donations to finance its programs. The charity hosts several fundraisers each year, including a golf tournament and the Cape Cod Bass and Blue Fish Tournament; this year’s fishing tourney takes place July 8-9. Funds raised pay for the campers’ Dream Day experience and also cover costs of the camp’s equipment and facilities.
“In 2015 we raised $10,000 for adaptive kayaks,” Hudnall says. “That was great because the fishermen could connect with getting kids onto the water.” The new tandem kayaks allow visiting families to paddle and fish together in the camp’s pristine pond. This emphasis on the family experience is central to Dream Day on Cape Cod’s mission, Hudnall says.
In a given week in summer, campers arrive on Sunday and stay through Friday. During the opening campfire, new and returning families gather and begin to catch up and/or get to know one another. “We just let the program do its part,” Hudnall says. “When we do the opening campfire, we’re getting the families laughting. People naturally put up barriers when they’re in a situation where they don’t know others, so we want them to laugh together.”
A “Dream Day” day begins with breakfast at the dining hall. Campers can then take part in a variety of activities ranging from boating and fishing to arts and crafts such as candle making. The 17-acre campground also boasts a playground, hiking and walking trails, a climbing wall, a low ropes course, and a stage for performances.
During one week last summer, campers even had the chance to observe a Revolutionary War-era military encampment. Deb Blake, who works as Dream Day on Cape Cod’s cook, is also a member of the Yarmouth Minutemen, a local colonial reenactment group, and helped organize the gathering. “The Minutemen set up a typical camp of the period,” Hudnall recalls. “They brought in clothes—even a cannon. They fired their muskets off, and they had the kids doing war drills. It was so much fun. We cooked food over the fire. That was really cool.”
Hudnall says family members often develop strong bonds with each other and with the camp’s staff during the week’s stay, and that’s a powerful thing to see and experience. “They become great friends,” Hudnall says. “By Friday morning when everyone is leaving, we have a big whiteboard set up. The campers write down their address, their name, phone numbers, and emails. They are taking pictures of the whole board.”
Dream Day on Cape Cod’s campground is located at 165 Nan-Ke-Rafe Path in Brewster. For more information, visit dreamdayoncapecod.org.
Wes Chaput is a teacher at Tabor Academy in Marion.
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