Fundraiser to Aid Sick Kids


Even on her worst day, Jessica Cooper realizes she is luckier than her young friend, Marina, who is 9 years old and suffers from acute lymphatic leukemia. Cooper of Perryville, a junior majoring in communication at Maryville University, has gotten to know Marina and her family over the past two years as Cooper has been Marina’s companion at Camp Quality Northwest Missouri. The weeklong camp, located in Stewartsville, serves children with cancer at no cost to the children’s families.

Camp Quality, which provides year-round support programs in addition to a week of camp activities, relies solely on private donations and contributions. Because she believes so strongly in the camp’s mission, Cooper is organizing Swim-A-Thon 2007, a fundraiser to be held from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., Saturday, July 28, at the Perry Park Center Pool in Perryville. In addition to participants swimming laps in the pool, there will be duck races down a water slide, live music, free food and door prizes. Cooper’s goal is to raise $2,200, which would cover the costs of sending two children to Camp Quality for a week.

“The camp provides a chance for kids to act just like other kids, at least for a week, and get them away from the hospital,” said Cooper, who organized a similar event last year, which raised about $1,100. The Perry Park Center is donating the use of its facility for the event, Cooper noted. “Dee Johnson, the aquatics director there, used to be my swim coach,” she explained. “When I told her about my idea for a fundraiser, she offered the use of the pool.” Cooper added that several other local businesses have donated food and supplies for the event. Donors can contribute by sponsoring a participant in the swim-a-thon, sponsoring a duck in the duck races or making a straight contribution.

Cooper learned of Camp Quality, which sponsors 15 camps in 12 states, two years ago from fellow Maryville student Jessica Tietsort. “We were talking about our summer plans while we were on a Habitat for Humanity trip over Spring Break,” Cooper said. “She told me she was going to be working at Camp Quality so I went with her and loved the experience.” In turn, Cooper’s presentation to a group of Maryville freshmen about her experience at the camp convinced a third University student, Stephanie Gibbs, to volunteer there this summer.

The campers may have life-threatening illnesses but, for one week at least, they cut loose. “If you were to put Marina in the middle of a bunch of healthy kids, you wouldn’t know she was sick,” Cooper said with a smile. Helping others comes naturally to Cooper, who, plain and simple, enjoys people. “I like interacting with people. I like doing things for others. I’m grateful for everything I have and I want to try to make someone else’s life a little better.”

For more information or to donate to Swim-A-Thon 2007, contact Cooper by phone (573-768-0367) or e-mail (jcooper@maryville.edu) or call Dee Johnson at the Perry Park Center Pool, 573-547-PARK.