Once a disease like cancer hits, the patient and the rest of the family are challenged to turn their lives upside down immediately. Especially for kids, cancer can quickly bring childhood to an end and turn life into an ongoing marathon of doctor’s visits, chemotherapy and physical challenges that make it hard to enjoy the simple things.
The Goodtimes Project, formerly known as Camp Goodtimes, on Vashon Island is helping kids forget their disease during two separate weeks of camp where cancer patients, survivors and their siblings can do what every child should do – enjoy their childhood and have fun.
The camp is at no cost for kids from ranging from 7 to 17 years old and campers travel from all over Washington State and Alaska. This year, about 230 children are attending camp. The staff, which includes doctors and nurses, are volunteers that are often cancer survivors themselves.
On Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. the camp will be kicking off its fourth annual Drive-A-Thon at Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, and visitors can expect 2.5 miles of race track and cars going up to 140 mph. The event was created to give the kids an opportunity to ride in sports cars, and visitors the chance to ride along in exotic cars or bring their own cars on the track to support the camp’s mission to keep the kids coming back at no cost.
Porsches, McLarens, Lamborghinis, Mustangs, BMWs and a variety of other race cars will be featured, along with an auction and go-kart racing. The track fee for drivers interested in taking their cars to the track is $300 and all proceeds will benefit The Goodtimes Project. Registration is open until Aug. 2 through Motorsportreg.com or The Goodtimes Project website at www.thegoodtimesproject.org.
The event was created in honor of Kathryn “Panda” Bradley, who died from a brain tumor in 2012. It's a camp tradition that kids and staff choose their camp names and Kathryn decided on Panda, short for pandemonium, as her fellow campers described her upbeat character.
Her parents Scott and Carol Bradley and brother Richard Bradley have since made it their mission to support the camp and wanted to go further than volunteering. They created a Drive-A-Thon in collaboration with Tacoma-based Pete Bristow, owner of Bristow’s Exclusive Auto Repair, who was excited to offer his knowledge and connections to the car community to help start the Drive-A-Thon.
“It’s kind of like a Make-A-Wish Foundation, locally,” said Bristow, who also drives during the event.
“She made friends everywhere. She was about 4-feet, 8-inches tall and about 90 pounds, but she was always such an inspiration,” says Scott Bradley.
Kathryn attended the camp in 2001 after she survived brain cancer at age eight, and loved it so much that she would attend for years to come, eventually joining the staff. Camp was a relief for the Bradleys, as they knew Kathryn would be taken care of and have fun.
After Kathryn died, camp still wasn't over for the Bradleys.
“We started getting active at camp to deal with our grief,” says Scott Bradley. He notes that the event is especially meaningful for parents of campers as they get a chance to spend time on the race track and connect with others facing the same challenges.
“There is a lot of healing that happens there. It lets you know that you are not alone,” he said. “We’re happy to carry on for Kathryn, and it’s good for us.”
Camp Goodtimes used to be sponsored by the American Cancer Society until funding was withdrawn after 30 years in 2013. During the first two Drive-A-Thons, the group raised about $40,000 each time, and they are hoping to surpass the amount this year so that kids can continue to attend the camp. The Goodtimes Project is always looking for sponsors and volunteers.