Campfire Notes

Remembering Hope “Fiji” Mirano

Remembering Hope “Fiji” Mirano

Hope “Fiji” Mirano Chen

We are so sad to let our GAC family know that our longtime, beloved staff member (2000-2008), Hope “Fiji” Mirano Chen, lost her 3 1/2 year battle with cancer earlier this week. She leaves behind her husband Mike, her daughter Olivia, and a large a loving extended family – including many current and former GAC staff members.

The Chen Family

Hope’s sister, Anna Mirano Macalino writes:

On Wednesday May 1, 2019, my sister and best friend, Hope Mirano Chen, died after a courageous and inspiring 3.5 year battle with a very aggressive form of AML due to complications resulting from her most recent treatment. On her last days, she was surrounded by her loved ones and is finally resting in peace and no longer in pain. The Mirano and Chen families would like to thank everyone for all of the love and support throughout this journey. The outpouring of support and prayers, blood and platelet donations, gifts for and time with Olivia, traveling across the globe to visit, weekly visits, slumber parties, texts, facetime, calls…the list is endless. We could never list all of you, but please know that we are eternally grateful to each and every one of you. Hope and our families didn’t have just a village, we truly had the world helping us fight…friends, family and the kindness of many many strangers. Hope left us knowing she was truly loved. We would especially like to thank Dr Stein and the City of Hope for their care and becoming part of our family throughout this process. Gary Ragat your donation gave Hope hope twice, it meant so much to her. And to Cheryl Oliver-Cervantes for never leaving our side and helping us navigate through every single emotional and administrative step of Hope’s last days. We would like to compile stories of your memories of Hope for her daughter, Olivia. Through all of you we will keep Hope’s memory alive in Olivia. Please post on Hope’s timeline any thoughts and we will ensure that your messages are passed along to Olivia and the family. Thank you all again for being with us on this journey.

We have received so much love and an outpouring of people that want to help. Your kindness at this time is genuinely appreciated. For those asking about donations, Hope wanted to help find a cure for blood cancer. Donations can be made in Hope’s name to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In order to send a tribute gift, please donate directly at As you personalize your gift, please put Hope Mirano Chen under the Personalize Your Donation section and Mike and the family will be notified of your generosity.

A few of the words shared about “Fiji” from GAC staff include:

“Heaven gained an angel far too soon. Hope, I will forever cherish our memories on and off the mountain from our GAC years. Thank you for being you and such an inspiration to many. Mike, Olivia, family and all who are walking with heavy hearts today. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.”
-Abbey “Wild Violet” Butcher

“My beautiful friend! I cannot put into words all the memories we have shared over the past 16 years! From camp sleepovers in “The Hilton” to dressing up in the most ridiculous costumes for GAC dances to weddings to welcoming our children together! I have so many cherished memories to hang on to! Your legacy lives on in your beautiful O! To Mike and Anna and all your family and friends who are feeling this pain, we love you and miss you everyday! I pray that your family finds peace during this hard time. Until we meet again and run a LOT of “errands” together we LOVE YOU Fiji Feeeeej!
-Renee “Zippy” Say

Hope, This breaks my heart. I love you sweet lady.
-Aaron “Elf” Kessler

We love you, Fiji, and will always cherish memories of your cheerful spirit, your warmth, and your love for others. You will be missed dearly.


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The Gift of Handwritten Letters

The Gift of Handwritten Letters

by Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, Camp Director

Recently, I’ve been going through the many boxes of letters, photos, and memorabilia which I have collected over my first five decades. It’s been a time-consuming task, but I’m trying to organize into a smaller number of boxes what has been accumulated over the first half of my life.  What has struck me most is the huge number of letters I amassed from my childhood, high school, and college friends. Until this week, I didn’t remember how much we corresponded, but I just finished going through hundreds of letters.  I now have proof of the many friendships that were solidified over hours of writing to one another.

I mostly have the ones written to me, but I can assume from the “Thanks for your letter”s that I was writing at the same rate as my friends were. Maybe some of my letters are in a box out there somewhere?

Not only was there a huge volume of letters (see picture), some of the letters were ten pages long, with tiny writing. Others were short notes or fun greeting cards. Most of them were in beautiful, cursive writing, even some from boys!  What an amazing thing to think about. Back then, without the distractions we all have today, we had TIME to write letters like that!  Plus, we enjoyed it and were good at it!  We wrote letters, because often long distance phone calls were too expensive.  Many of us traveled and studied overseas, so the letters chronicle our trips.

The process of trying to get rid of most of this paper required that I at least skim through each one. I pulled out many that I simply can’t bear to throw away.  I found letters from my late grandparents, with their words of wisdom. I found letters my parents had written to me over the years.  I also found letters from friends showing major teen angst, which is a good reminder now that I have teens of my own. We weren’t that different back then after all! It’s just that we didn’t splash our anger and sadness at each other on Facebook. We wrote each other heartfelt notes.

One thing I realized is that my kids will not have a big box of letters like mine. They don’t write letters like we did in the pre-computer, pre-email, pre-social networking, pre-cell phone era.  But then I had a revelation! They DO still get to send and receive letters.  It’s when they’re at camp!  I have told parents how much campers enjoy getting “real” mail while at camp (the kind with a stamp), but now I have realized another benefit – they will have these letters as keepsakes and memories of their childhood. And you, as parents, most definitely should save all of the letters you get from your camper!

Among my box, I came across a postcard I sent to my parents in 1977, when I was a camper at Gold Arrow Camp. This is what it said:


My postcard home from camp, 1977.


“Dear Mommy,

I think it’s mean that you have to write a letter to get into dinner, but I’m glad to write a letter to you because I love you. It’s been raining since we got here. But we still went horseback riding. I wrote a letter to daddy this morning and sent it. Camp is so fun. I can’t wait to tell you. My counslers name is Liz. She’s nice.

Love, Audrey”

Let me tell you, we have gotten some good laughs in our house over this postcard. Not just about how I spelled “counselor,” but about my comment about the “Mail Meal” (dinners on Wednesday and Sunday that you need to have a letter or postcard home as your ticket in). The dreaded “Mail Meal” has been a camp tradition for as long as anyone can remember, but I didn’t even remember thinking it was a bad thing.  My adult view is much different than my ten-year-old one! I now understand how much parents need those letters.  I hope most kids get beyond the “I have to write this letter” part, and share some of their feelings and memories of camp. The resulting memorabilia will be priceless.

So, here’s to another benefit of camp I’ve only this week realized. We have the chance for our kids to experience the (almost) lost art of writing and receiving handwritten letters. And you, as a parent, have a chance to write down words that your child will be able to read and keep long beyond any email you’ve sent them!

P.S.  Did you see this hilarious book?  P.S. I Hate it Here: Letters from Camp  It is full of some really funny, real letters kids wrote to their parents from camps.

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