In 1976, a wonderful boy named David Abrams was stricken with childhood leukemia when he was two years old. He survived cancer but his treatments left him retarded and epileptic. When it was time for sleep-away camp, because of David’s illness, no camp would have him. So, in 1982, his mom, Pepper Edmiston, started one.
With the help of David’s grandparents, Max and Janet Salter, Camp Good Times prospered and David blossomed. But, by 1993, David’s impairments were so pronounced that his family founded a new program named Happy Trails.
For thirteen years, Happy Trails hosted families who were raising seriously ill or incapacitated boys and girls - either their youngsters by birth or through foster care. Happy Trails celebrated children with challenges and the families who loved them. All of David’s siblings came to camp: his brothers Jon, Matt, Ben, Will and Charlie and his sister Susan.
Susan grew up to become an attorney who represented children in foster care. In 2009, when she took over as president of Happy Trails, Susan focused the mission of the program on boys and girls in foster care with and without disabilities. Her brothers each pitched in: Jon is chairman of the board; Matt and Ben serve as counselors; Will provides music at the dances and Charlie creates all of the graphic art. As it was from the beginning, camp is a family affair.
On February 22, 2009, early on a Sunday morning, David passed away from an aggressive seizure. Although David suffered from many limitations, his capacity for joy was limitless and his love for his family and for Happy Trails was enormous.
Summer 2009 was the first time since 1982 that David did not attend a camp that was designed for him and boys and girls like him. It was also the first time his siblings stood together for a photo without their big brother in the picture. It was not an easy Happy Trails session without the big guy, but the laughter and excitement of the campers eased the pain.
The Salters, Abrams and Edmiston family continues to support Happy Trails for Kids, both to honor the memory of their beloved David and in recognition of the value camp holds for every child in need.