Camp Curious nears $20,000 for pancreatic cancer research

Staff Photo by Wm. Shawn Weigel: The founders of Camp Curious - Sarah Smith, Kierstin Anderson and Shoshanna Lustig, center from left, pose with the rest of the counselors from the 2012 camp: Nathan Smith, Anna Smith, Rebecca Lustig, Wyatt Anderson, Stephen Doroba, Kate Doroba, Delaney Chaffin, Lindsay Kreiger, Zachary Milestone and Collin Swed.

Seven years ago, when Shoshanna Lustig started Camp Curious in the living room of her friend’s house, she didn’t expect it to still be around when she was a teenager.

“I think we were all a little too young to think that far ahead. We were, like, nine.” Shoshanna, now 16, said of the camp held at the clubhouse at Somerset Lake in New Garden Township. “We had so much other stuff to think about back then.”

Yet here she and her three friends are – one now living in Michigan, all with busy young lives – still coming together for a good cause.

Shoshanna and her friend Sarah Smith, 16, started Camp Curious in an effort to raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer research.

Shoshanna was inspired to create the camp after the death of her grandmother, Ann Director, who died nine months after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly forms of cancer and part of the reason is that it’s found so late at the time of diagnosis because early on there are no symptoms,” said Shoshanna’s mother, Nancy Lustig. “And often at diagnosis it’s too late for surgery because it has already metastasized to other organs in the body.”

The girls – Shoshanna, Sarah and 15-year-old Kierstin Anderson – recruit campers from their neighborhood in Somerset Lake, charging a small fee for the week and donating every dime to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

In the past seven years, the girls have raised over $16,000 for pancreatic cancer research, earning $3,000 so far this year.

“We’re kind of going for $20,000, but we’re not sure yet. We’re going to hit up our friends and families too,” Kierstin said.

The girls plan out a week’s worth of activities, each day with a different theme – from exploring the ocean to learning about and travelling to the Olympics in London.

And while the goal of a cure for pancreatic cancer is still out of sight, the three girls wonder how much longer they’ll be able to continue hosting their annual camp.

“It’s getting a lot harder for my mom to make the trip,” Sarah said, adding that she and her family drive from Michigan to New Garden every year for the past four years for the week of camp. “Plus, by brother and sister and I have very involved sports lives, and there’s a lot to coordinate. And I start college next year.”

“It eats up a lot of my time – well, the time I actually have, which is zero,” Shoshanna said. “And I do it between my classes and skating time – because I skate every day.”

“I just landed a part in ‘The Sound of Music,’ so that’s going to keep me busy,” Kierstin said. “But I will be here next year.”

The gold medalist ice skater said that, starting in January, she tries to donate two hours a weekend to coming up with ideas and an itinerary for the week.

“You should see how organized she is – she should be in business,” Nancy Lustig said.

This year, Camp Curious boasts 14 counselors working with 36 campers – the most number of campers so far – with many returning from previous years.

This also marks the first time a former camper has returned as a junior counselor just a few years later.

Eight-year-old Collin Swed said that he couldn’t wait to come back and be a part of the organizing and setting up, as well as playing with the campers.

“Plus I like making new friends, and I have made a lot here,” he said.

Despite the fact that the trio who started the camp might not make it back together again next, there are contingencies in place to keep Camp Curious running into at least the near future.

“My sister has been real interested,” Shoshanna said of 13-year-old Rebecca Lustig. “When she sees me doing things, she’s always asking if she can help. So, I was thinking maybe having her run it.”

Collin’s family has also expressed an interesting in helping run things, according to Nancy.

“They’re our best friends, so it makes perfect sense,” she said.

“My little brother is also interested,” Kierstin said. “They’ll do anything we ask, just about.”

For Sarah, it’s bittersweet knowing that many things are coming to an end as a rising senior at Southside East High School.

“It’s my last equestrian season, my last year of high school,” she said. “I kind of have a tentative idea of driving myself here, but my mom will never let me do it.”

Even without Camp Curious’ annual donations, the need fo research and awareness is still essential, Nancy said.

“In 2010, 43,000 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and in that same year 37,000 died,” she said. “The survival rate at five years is 5 percent. That means 95 percent of patients will not be alive in five years time.”

She’s also proud of the fact that they’ve managed to keep it going as long as they have.

“They really are all very busy with their outside activities,” she said. “And every year it’s easier. They roll with the punches and keep things moving. They just seem to work it out; they are good friends from way back. And the siblings are attentive and there seems to be a lot less conflict because they’re maturing.”

However, they’ll see what happens with grooming their siblings for future seasons, Nancy said.

“In every family, each child is different from the other kid, so I’m just going to watch, I’m not anticipating anything But I am just blown away by just how well this is run and how it keeps getting better every year.”

Camp Curious receives sponsorship from Prima’s Pizza and for the last three years from Papa John’s Pizza, both in Hockessin. Tee shirt monogramming has been done by donation from M.F Schurman who runs the pro-shop Crystal Sports at the University of Delaware.

For more information or to make a donation to Camp Curious, email campcurious@hotmail.com. For more information on PanCAN, visit www.pancan.org.