OSTERBURG, BEDFORD COUNTY - She was a little Bedford County girl who made a big impact on our area. Heather Sue Miller, 11, earned her angel wings earlier this year after a battle with cancer. Now a woman who was touched by Heather's life wants to make sure the young girl is never forgotten.
Kim Reifsnyder came up with the idea for Heather's Haven. It's a camp that would be for children with cancer along with their families and even their pets. Heather's parents can't think of a better way to honor their daughter.
You didn't have to be from Bedford County to be touched by Heather. Reifsnyder knew the little spark plug well even though she lived more than two hours away near Reading. Heather would play with Kim's daughter when the Bedford County girl was in town visiting family. When the news of her passing made its way to Kim...
“It was as if I had lost a child. Cancer runs rampant in my family. I've lost five aunts to breast cancer, and my father passed away from colon cancer, but when you're talking about a child whose life is just beginning it's beyond words the grief that you feel,” Reifsnyder said.
That's when Kim came up with Heather's Haven, a camp for children with cancer, in honor of Heather. For heather's parents the plans for the camp couldn't be any better.
“The softball field, and a swimming pool and mini golf and a racetrack with go karts and things, all things that Heather loved and especially to have a kennel available for these children to bring their pets,” Wendy Miller, Heather’s mom, said.
The kennel for the kids’ pets would be named after Bubba, Heather's Great Dane. Other aspects of the camp would be named after those closest to Heather, like her sister Hannah, 13.
“We are going to have for the siblings a place called Hannah’s Hangout, a place where they can gather together and talk about how they feel, and you know cancer affects everybody, it's not a disease that only affects the person who has it, it affects everybody,” Reifsnyder said.
Other areas of Heather’s Haven would be named after some of the friends Heather made who are also battling cancer. For example, Reifsnyder hopes to have a horse corral named Kayla’s Corral, an exercise center named Eli’s Exercise Center, and a craft section called Nikki’s Nature Crafts. All these children either battled or are battling cancer. Heather was also very close to Pittsburgh Steeler Heath Miller. Reifsnyder plans to plant Heath and Heather plants side by side at the camp’s front entrance.
The camp is in the earliest of stages, not expected to be ready to open until spring of 2012. The part the Millers like best about Heather's Haven is that it will provide the support for others that they got from their family, friends and community. It will also be a place where kids can be kids, away from the hospitals and doctors.
“Heather lived with her cancer, and she lived with a smile on her face a smile that I call a Hershey bar smile. It just could light up a room and that thrills me and it warms my heart,” Wendy said.
Reifsnyder is applying for grants for Heather's Haven and hoping for donations. They would like at least 100 acres for the camp. Reifsnyder is still waiting to hear from the IRS on the camp’s non-profit status. That’s when she will begin accepting tax-deductible donations. They are looking for a plot of land somewhere between the Miller’s home in Osterburg and Reifsnyder’s home near Reading to place Heather’s Haven.