On Hope Remains Ranch’s 11-acre property, two-year-old Dredger Lanier stood in front of a small, wooden horse, throwing colorful hoops at its head and smiling when one looped around its ears and slid down its straight neck.
Katrina Lanier, Dredger’s mother, said for the past three months- ever since Dredger was diagnosed with cancer – the toddler’s life has been full of visits to the hospital and aggressive treatments.
Standing at the ranch and watching her son play, Katrina said she was just happy to see him enjoying himself.
“He loves it,” Katrina said.
Dredger was one of 22 children with Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas’ Camp Victory who spend Monday morning at Hope Remains Ranch riding horses, playing corn hole, taking wagon rides – far from the world of beeping chemotherapy machines and needle pricks.
“We’ve been going through with treatment and it’s pretty intense right now,” Katrina said. “Right now he’s at a high risk and we’re in the middle of a 60-day treatment. He just got off of a three-week break because his counts weren’t high enough yet. So we just started this week and it’s rough… It’s nice just to get out.”
Melanie Watt, CEO of the ranch, said she started taking horses and ponies to Camp Victory several years ago and last year, campers came to the ranch for the first time. Watt said she’s glad the children from Camp Victory now have an opportunity to experience the ranch more fully.
“It’s great to partner with them and love on these kids and love on these families,” she said.
CCPC Executive Director Laura Allen said giving children outings like the one at Hope Remains Ranch helps families take their minds off of the challenges they’re facing and builds bonds between people going through similar hardships.
“We always invite siblings and we invite the parents because cancer can be a very isolating disease for children and for families,” she said.
For the past month, Esther Silva, 4, has been talking constantly about a chance to see the horses at the ranch, said Claudia Silva, Esther’s mother.
“She thinks about this all the time,” she said. “She has tiny horses in our house. So it’s her dream. I have no words to thank all of these people who are helping us.”
Allen said giving children like Dredger and Esther a chance to feel like normal kids is an amazing experience.
“These are the times that we want our kids to forget about cancer and be kids and do all those joyous, fun things,” she said. “Most of the time, they’re on a journey back and forth getting chemo, or sitting at a clinic, or seeing a doctor and being poked and prodded and these few days of camp today, camp in July and camp in early June allows them to not worry about any of that.”