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Random Thoughts: A Community Conversation with Heather Bachman

By: Kate Uptergrove

Heather Bachman [center] with her children, Haleigh [left] and Quinten

This week, West Newsmagazine talks with Heather Bachman, executive director of the Camp Rainbow Foundation. Based in Chesterfield and founded in 1988, Camp Rainbow is a 501[c][3] nonprofit that provides free camp experiences to children who have been diagnosed with cancer and blood-related diseases. A cancer survivor herself, Bachman says she can relate to campers because she, too, once “had a port and was bald.” Bachman also has a son who has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes so, as a mom, she too has experienced sending a child with special medical considerations to camp. 

What’s your secret talent?

Probably what people don’t know about me at this point is that I can dance on pointe still and I’m in my forties. Until I got sick, I actually took dance lessons every week and danced on pointe. And then, just as a side-effect of having chemo, I can’t really do that any more, but I can still put [pointe shoes] on and dance in my kitchen. 

What’s a common experience for many people that you’ve never experienced?

Gosh, I really don’t know. I feel like I have a lot of experiences. I really don’t say no to much. I’m a pretty adventurous person. I like to go and do and try all kinds of things. There’s probably very little that I’ve passed on. 

What values are most important to you?

Honesty and a positive attitude. 

What are some of the turning points in your life?

Well, I was a social worker for more than 20 years. I worked with men, women and children who were developmentally disabled and then I got sick with cancer. That was a huge turning point in my life. I completely changed my career and my focus and left a world that was very comfortable to me and I was well established in and jumped over to the world of camps, where I was not well established. So that’s probably the biggest turning point professionally. Personally, I’d say it was when I moved into my neighborhood. We live in south city and it’s a very close-knit community and my kids started school there. The community that we live in is very important to us and we do all kinds of things with our community, so that would be a personal one. 

Who is the most creative person that you know?

I know a lot of creative people because I do camps but if I had to pick maybe two creative people, I’d say Tricia [McCaffrey]. She’s extremely creative and very talented in pulling together great decorations or ideas for camp. Danna Wode, who used to do our art tent for us at camp. She’s extremely creative. She’s an art teacher. She’s just amazing. I’m jealous almost every day by what her kids get to experience in school because she’s just incredibly talented and gifted. 

What would be your spirit animal?

It would have to be something that lives in a pack because I’m extremely social. I love to be around other people and love to be engaged with social [activites], so probably like seals or sea lions because they’re always together and they’re fun and they like to entertain. They don’t mind climbing on a rock and putting on a show. 

Who was your most interesting teacher? 

How about the teacher who had the biggest impact? That was Sister Shelia at Rosati Kain High School. She seemed like she was 100 years old. She was very fragile and frail but she was such a strong and powerful person. She taught thesis writing and, to this day, I could probably write you a 100-page thesis in no time flat because of her skills and the way she taught me to do it. Twenty-five years later, I still use that formula of writing and researching and learning. And, she could recite every word from Shakespeare’s works off the top of her head and she would kind of act them out. 

What skills do you think are the most important for adults to instill in children?

Community. I think community is very important. Being honest and standing up for your principles and your morals and remembering them even in the face of adversity. 

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