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Whether it’s chasing frogs, scaling the climbing wall, or arts and crafts, everything about the Albert and Ann Deshur JCC Rainbow Day Camp seems typical — until you learn about the campers.

Summer camp is considered a rite of passage for many children, but we often forget that it can be inaccessible to kids who are sick or living with a disability.

Designed for children with medical conditions that require special attention, like cancer or sickle-cell disease, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, camp keeps nurses and doctors on staff so the kids truly have the best chance at "getting to be a kid for a day" for two days each year.


Counselor David, camper Alex. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

Siblings, who can sometimes be overlooked when their brother or sister needs more attention or care, are also invited.

They get the chance to totally let loose, an opportunity they don't always have when medical bills are high and private camp isn't always an option.

Only child? No problem — they can bring along a BFF.

"We’re used to dealing with a spectrum of needs for each kid," says Rainbow Day Camp director Lenny Kass.

Taking each kid’s unique challenges into account, the camp is committed to creating an experience that allows any kid in attendance to participate, no matter their limitations.

Scooter campers: Melvin, Adam and Memphis. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

But can a single camp experience really impact the kids, or is it just fun and games?

While an illness like cancer can really crush a child’s spirit, making connections at camp and embracing new experiences helps many of the kids walk away feeling lighter.

"There was a child in the clinic [who didn’t] speak much," Kass remembered. "He would hardly talk at all. Here at camp ... [we] literally could not keep him quiet."

Pool campers: Melvin and friend. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

There are many stories just like that, of kids who left Rainbow Day Camp with an outlook very different from where they began. And that's the magic of a camp like this — these kids are more than their illnesses, and creating a space for them to be themselves can do wonders.

Dr. David Margolis, a regular fixture at the camp, noted that it’s not just the kids who experience these transformations either. "This is soul food for the staff," he said.

"Some have gone on to become medical students and residents here."

Camper Athena (this was her last day of treatment!) and Dr. Stephanie. Photo by Josh T. Decker.

Parents, too, find joy in seeing their kids come out of their shells, living as children instead of as "patients."

As passionate as he is about supporting kids with diseases, Kass and his team are still invested in a future where a place like Rainbow Day Camp won’t be needed.

"We’d never have to have a camp because there’d be no kids with cancer," he said. "I hope it will be in my lifetime."

For now, he's content with "making even one child’s day phenomenal."

Making a difference in someone’s life can be as simple as that.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

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