LAKE WYLIE — Zachary Waterman knows good news, and bad. Hearing he was heading back to Lake Wylie and to the boats and the silly string, well, that was good news.
Waterman, 14, arrived Thursday among two busloads of guests with Courageous Kidz, a Charleston-based support group for children with cancer and their siblings. For the seventh year children boated and bobbed on the lake, busted water balloons on one another. And they beamed.
“I appreciate all the camps I get to do,” Waterman said.
Waterman found out in February the cancer he’s been fighting isn’t showing up any more. He’s now down to annual check-ups. Courageous Kidz has an array of prognoses. Some kids have been to the lake all seven years. Some past attendees didn’t make it Thursday.
Hosts Ted and Lannette Conder understand how important it is for the children to squeeze everything out of the days they’re here. Lannette Conder came up with Dakota’s Spectacular Day on the Lake with her late son Dakota Gay, who died at age 15 from brain cancer in 2007. He was himself a Courageous Kidz member.
Now, once a year, about 100 campers and chaperones bus to the Conder home where friends and neighbors shuttle them on boats, feed them and enjoy many of Dakota’s favorites – fireworks, bubbles, silly string.
The next day they go to Carowinds.
“It’s a special event,” said Jerry Bernstein, who among donating to charitable causes and covering the Carowinds tickets also grills up a drum-load of chicken every year. “He was a special boy.”
The event has grown in recent years to include more neighbors, who bring side dishes, life jackets, inflatables, whatever’s needed.
“There’s as many volunteers as there are kids,” Ted Conder said Thursday.
Lannette Conder gets so excited as the buses approach each year, her feet literally leave the ground in anticipation. Thursday she passed out cans of silly string to volunteers with instructions for greeting the children.
The day isn’t just something she came up with to keep her son’s memory alive and well. It’s something he came up with, too.
“You can’t help but have energy when you see those buses pull up,” Lannette Conder said.