Meghan Finnerty | April 14, 2022
Cancer > Camp > Career
Summer camp gave a cancer survivor a community. Now, her studies prepare her to guide today’s campers.
Sophomore Savannah Harvey is a brain cancer survivor. By the age of 20, she’s had more than 200 surgeries and procedures that left her with one less lung, a narrowed throat and paralysis of the left side of her face — and completely cancer free.
Through her experience with cancer as a child she has found her career calling. “I really wanted to get into recreation and management so I could help give back to the childhood cancer community, and repay what was originally given to me.”
Harvey is now studying Park and Recreation Management in the Department of Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation, and Tourism at SUNY Brockport.
“We actually didn’t even think I was going to go to college but, me being me, I wanted to push the limits and see what I could do.” she explained. “(My family) backs me the whole way, and every day they’re in awe of what I have accomplished.”
When Harvey was 3-years-old she was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. She spent a lot of time in hospitals and described it as lonely and isolating — except for when she was connected with non-profit organizations.
She remembers the impact that the charity, P.U.N.T. Pediatric Cancer Collaborative, founded by former Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman and his wife, Amber, had on her family. She also recalls the impactful times she spent at Happiness is Camping, a New Jersey camp for children who have cancer and their siblings.
“It was amazing. Camp is basically a second family,” Harvey said. From age seven to 17 she spent five weeks each summer at camp. Her days and nights were spent sitting at bonfires, practicing archery, climbing ropes courses, zip lining, swimming, playing gaga ball.
“I love it there,” she said.
In 2020, she became a camp counselor and finds motivation and encouragement from the young campers that she meets. It’s inspiring to see how they cope, she explained.
“When you go through cancer your whole world flips upside down. People who were your friends gravitate away due to everything that you’re going through, and you tend to feel cut off from the outside world. But these camps and organizations help to show you that no that’s not the case. We’re here for you, we will help you,” she said.
Harvey will return to Happiness is Camping this summer and plans to connect her education and course requirements to her camp experiences.
“Savannah is passionate about helping others and has a unique understanding of the power of recreational experiences to improve people’s quality of life,” Assistant Professor Nick Pitas says. “I’m confident that she is going to have a positive impact on the lives of others and be an incredible ambassador for SUNY Brockport and our department moving forward.”