Camper Stories: Meet siblings Jacob and Hannah

Each summer the Double H Ranch provides an opportunity for siblings of qualifying campers to attend camp for a week. Sibling campers experience the same joy and magic of camp – being a part of a cabin, making new friends and enjoying camp activities. At camp, siblings can enjoy a week of just being a kid.

For Jacob and Hannah, sharing the magic of Double H Ranch allows them to share camp stories and memories throughout the year. Jacob will be attending camp for his eighth time this summer, and Hannah for her sixth year – and we’re sure they’ll have plenty more memories to share with each other!

Jacob and Hannah at the SeriousFun Children’s Network New York City Gala, 2017

Recently, Jacob and Hannah had the special opportunity to perform together at the SeriousFun Children’s Network Gala, where they also introduced Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former President Bill Clinton to the audience. A few short weeks later, they returned to New York City with other SeriousFun campers to perform on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, and the Roots for a special camp-inspired performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” in the Tonight Show Music Room.

We recently caught up with Jacob and Hannah about their camp experiences. Hannah has also graciously shared with us an essay that talks about her experiences at camp and the powerful impact it has made on her as a sibling of a child who has battled a serious illness, which we have shared below.

Do you have a favorite camp memory?
(J) Yes, my first year, when my counselor Matt and I were walking back from the body shop, and we took a shortcut through the cafeteria. We passed a bucket of fruit roll ups, and Matt took two out and silently sat down at a table, motioning for me to sit with him. We each took a fruit roll up, unrolled them, and raced to see who could finish it first without our hands. It was just so fun and spontaneous I’ll never forget it.

(H) My favorite camp memory is my cabin night of my second year at camp. Our counselors had us each choose a dress from the costume rack, and they threw us a “prom”!

How has Double H made a difference in your life?
(J) Double H has opened my eyes to the happiness and kindness that’s around the world. Everyone is so happy and fun all the time, there’s never a dull moment! It can show others that just because someone has to take 10 pills a day, or is in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean that they are any different from anyone else it the world. It is truly special.

(H) Double H has changed my life. Camp has opened my eyes to the hardships that so many kids go through, and is the happiest, safest place on earth.  It has also allowed me to meet sibling campers, like myself, who understand what I have been through with my family.

Is there anything in specific that you’d like to share with us about camp?
(J) The counselors. Definitely. They’re the best people in the whole world, they’re smart, funny, kind, and a blast to have around. They say all kinds of fun, wacky things but the one word I’ve never heard them say it “no”.

(H) The week I spend at Double H is my favorite of the year.  There is no place in the world like it, and I am so lucky to be able to experience the magic of Double H!

An excerpt from “The Magic of Camp”

By Hannah S.

“I looked around the circle, and thought, as I had felt since that first cheer that was just for me, “This is it.  This is my place.  This is where I truly belong.”  I marveled, as I had for five years, at the group of people who stood around me:  strong, incredible people who had difficult and painful lives, standing before me, still smiling through it all.  Kids who couldn’t walk, kids who couldn’t eat, kids who had endured round after round of chemotherapy, kids still in treatment.  And also campers like me, a sibling of a once terribly ill child.  But here, at camp, in this magical pocket of the world, for one week every summer, the hardships and struggles at home or in the hospital don’t matter.  At camp, everyone is just a kid.  Each kid celebrating the best week of his or her year.

Double H Ranch is the place where boys who can’t walk can ride horses.  Where girls who have sat in wheelchairs their entire lives can swing through the trees on a ropes course.  Where children who have spent years confined to a hospital bed run free.  Where abled-bodied and able-minded sisters of cancer-surviving heroes meet others who simply get them.  Where we are all just campers, without labels or diagnoses or pasts or futures.  We are campers, here, now, together having the time of our lives.

The fires of the burning wish boats flashing across my eyes, I reflected on five summers at Double H, and several moments stood out in my mind:  Me, with my group of ten-year-old cabin mates, all wearing too-big dresses over our clothes, taking pictures of our cabin ‘prom,’ set up by our overzealous counselors.  Screaming as loud as my vocal cords allowed, whilst whizzing around on a roller coaster at The Great Escape with my fellow campers.  Grinning like a maniac as I zoomed down the zip line on the ropes course for the first time.  Campaigning for a cardboard cutout of a cowgirl for President.  Being crowned ‘Tater tot Champion’ after eating forty of them at lunch.  Stomping and clapping and screaming for every single act at the talent show, regardless of the ‘talent’ on stage before me.  Standing in the center of a circle of cabin members as they sang and chanted at me, for me, bidding me goodbye for the summer.  Sitting around a fire with the rest of the camp, sharing cheers and tears and excitement for our week here.  Receiving my first courage bracelet, an adjustable piece of purple rope, after my first time on the ropes course.  I pulled it onto my ankle, tightened it, and haven’t removed it in five years.  It stays, tied around me, as a reminder of all these memories, all this magic, all this love, and yes, all this courage, here at camp.

Five summers I have gone to the Double H Ranch, and each time I cannot help but be astounded at how lucky I am that this place exists.  Double H is my escape from the world; it’s the place where people understand what I’ve been through and where I can simply let go.  It’s a place that is never quiet, that never rests, yet is the most serene environment I know.  It’s a place that constantly buzzes with a very real magic, made by the best of people.  Double H magic is made through kindness, caring, and selflessness.  I am lucky for the very real magic of camp.”