Camp Ta-Kum-Ta took over Centennial Field in a softball showdown Saturday,
The day-long charity game aims to raise awareness and money for childhood cancer. Rather than a typical seven-inning softball game, this game had no inning restrictions. The ballgame lasted as many innings as players could get through from 11 am to 6 pm. Multiple teams participated in the charity game where teams switched on and off the field every hour.
“Over the course of the day, we could have seven hours of softball, with scores that go into the hundreds,” says the Director of Development for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta Dan Osman.
One player who took part in the fun was Brayden Duggan. And he wanted to win.
“Hoping to hit a few home runs and not strikeout so we’ll see,” says Brayden Duggan.
But simply being on the field is a victory for Duggan and his family.
“It’s pretty special being 5 years out now, living a normal life,” Duggan says.
Like many kids — Duggan was a student-athlete in high school.
“So I started playing football in the 4th grade,” Duggan says. “I [then] played football and baseball at [Colchester] High School.
In March 2016 — a testicular cancer diagnosis turned Brayden’s life upside down.
“Changes everything, not an easy word to swallow,” says Brayden’s father. “Our whole lives changed overnight.”
“It’s definitely a scary thing at first, there’s a lot of restrictions,” Duggan says. “You’re at the hospital for weeks at a time and missing a lot of school and missing appointments and a lot of restrictions when you’re on chemo.”
Those restrictions included less time with friends and no sports.
“When you’re a child with cancer, you’re often the only one everywhere you go,” says Duggan’s former Camp Counselor Dennis DePaul. “You’re the only kid with cancer in your school, in your church community, your neighborhood.”
The feeling of being different took its toll.
“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you feel very isolated,” DePaul says. “Everyone’s life continues to go on and your life zeroes in on your cancer journey.”
That’s where Camp Ta-Kum-Ta came into play.
It offers year-round programs in South Hero for kids battling cancer. DePaul is now the Executive Director of the camp and finds fulfillment in his work.
“You get to witness all these conversations between the children that are so moving and so beautiful where they’re talking about their journey it comes up so organically,” DePaul says. “[They] take what is considered to be a tragedy in [their] life and turn it into something beautiful.”
Although cancer briefly took Duggan away from sports – cancer was never able to take Duggan away from being a kid.
“We allow them to be on a ropes course or be in a water balloon fight,” DePaul says. “They rediscover their world again and connect with other kids experiencing the same things.”
Duggan defeated cancer twice during the next year.
Before he knew it – he was back on the football field in his senior year as a Colchester Laker. At last, he was right back where he belonged.
“It was amazing getting back on the field,” Duggan says. “Everyone was so supportive.”
Fast forward to now, the 22-year-old remains cancer-free. And now — the former camper is a counselor.
“[Duggan] builds connections with [our campers] through his journey,” DePaul says. “He says I’ve been where you are and the kids look up to the other children who are now staff members as role models of who they want to be.”
Duggan hopes to inspire and be there for the next batch of campers fighting their courageous battles.