Dick Camp’s daughter recalls his long friendship with Dave Sime

The Rev. Dick Camp and his daughter Kathy.

The Rev. Dick Camp and daughter Kathy.

A friend sent me a wonderful blog post by Kathy Camp, daughter of former world-class M70 sprinter Dick Camp, now about 80 and battling Parkinson’s. She wrote that her dad ran masters in his 60s and 70s because of Dave Sime. “My father’s heart hurts today,” she wrote the day Dave died. “Life is a little bit lonelier – a little bit sadder when you lose your person. David and Dad were best friends for over 70 years. Best men in each other’s weddings, the first phone calls made at births of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Their weekly phone calls were the most animated I’d seen my father. Talking about old friends, old plays on the field, old memories that bound them together for 50, 60, 70 years. Dad prayed that David would know Jesus. That he’d trust Him. That he’d offer his life to Him. I hope he did. I hope they will see each other again.”

Kathy, meanwhile, is a chip off the Rev. Camp’s block of faith.

I found this amazing profile from August 2015:

Every weekend Kathy Camp laces up her sneakers, lines up at the start line and hits the pavement, competing in road races in honor of her athlete father who no longer can. Parkinson’s disease has stolen his physical gifts; Richard Camp was a life-long athlete who won running medals well into his 70s. Now, he struggles to get out of a chair.

“Seeing both his inability to be the person I knew him to be… and seeing how his athletic prowess have given him a really phenomenal long life and wanting that for myself… the combo of that created the path that I’m on now,” Kathy, 37, of Laurel, Maryland, told FoxNews.com.

For the first 18 years of her life, Kathy was raised at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where her father, Reverend Richard P. Camp, now 79, served as chaplain from 1973 to 1996.

In high school, Richard was a multiple-letter athlete and was recruited by Vince Lombardi to play football at West Point. He turned them down to attend Wheaton College in Illinois, where, his senior year, he was invited to camp for the Chicago Bears. Instead, he got his Master of Divinity degree from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

At West Point, Richard played pick-up football with cadets and even coached at the end of the Vietnam War when staffing was slim.

In his 60s, he started running competitively in the USA Track & Field races. In his 70s, he was invited to run The Penn Relays, the first and oldest relay meets, started in 1985. He won the 100-meter in his age division and medaled several years in a row.

“His 23 years at West Point kept him going in his 40s, 50s, 60s… when you’re leading cadets to build their emotional, physical and spiritual muscles,” Kathy, a mother-of-one married to a Marine Corps officer, said. “Being a lifelong athlete helped him with Parkinson’s to stay off heavy drugs because his body is so naturally well-tuned.”

Richard was 72 when he was diagnosed and about two years ago, his symptoms worsened. In February, he underwent deep brain stimulation, a procedure that blocks electrical signals from targeted areas in the brain. According to the National Parkinson Foundation, it is only used for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medication.

The turning point for Kathy, who had been an overweight, un-athletic child, came over the Christmas holidays in 2014, when Richard suffered a few falls.

“I need to get my act together,” she recalled thinking at the time.

Kathy’s first race was the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, DC, in October 2014. The event, with more than 30,000 runners, is a kind of rallying point for the military community and includes many wounded veterans, she said.

After the race she posted a photo on social media, detailing how she was running for her dad because he couldn’t. The outpouring of support and donations to the Parkinson’s Foundation in response to her photo inspired her to decide to run a race every weekend for a year.

Kathy participates in road races across the country, even looking for local races when she’s traveling for her work as a partner at a boutique public relations firms in DC that primarily consults with military men and women who want to transition to public office. She mainly does 5Ks, but will do 10Ks and half marathons occasionally.

When asked how her father feels about her ambitious race plan, Kathy said it serves as a reminder that they’re in this together.

“I think, first of all, he’s so excited that his awkward, chubby daughter is finally getting in shape,” she said. “He knows when I post that photo, I carried him through that run.”

Kathy has chosen not to take any donations or fundraise for her races to ensure the focus isn’t on her, but on Parkinson’s and the military community.

“There are vets all across the country who don’t have resources,” she said. “Our Veterans Affairs system is terribly damaged and with my father and Parkinson’s disease, I want somebody to think about, when making donations, to keep thinking about that.”

For most of her races Kathy wears her West Point Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) shirt, which garners attention from graduates and parents alike. She’s made it her goal to encourage a fellow runner in each race.

“Running is really a metaphor for life,” she said. “We need to dig down to find that spiritual well and that resource within ourselves to finish a race, sometimes having someone come alongside you and be that someone makes a difference.”

Her father and the cadets at West Point taught Kathy about spiritual muscles needed to get through a race — and life.

“Watching troops get decimated and they’re using that spiritual muscle they learned at West Point… it’s not about how strong you are, but what you have in that tank,” she said. “On some of those long runs I have to use what’s in that spiritual tank to get through.”

Every day for Richard is a challenge, but his wife of 58 years, Virjean, has kept him going. According to Kathy, many former cadets have reached out to offer their experience and support for his emotional health, as depression is a big hurdle with Parkinson’s.

“My father made his life supporting these men and women and there they are, turning around supporting him,” she said. “That’s how you know you made the right choices in life and it comes back to you like that.”

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January 16, 2016

7 Responses

  1. Peter L. Taylor - January 17, 2016

    Rev. Dick Camp was (and is) a strong guy. Unfortunately, when you have Parkinson’s disease you HAVE to be strong; that’s a requirement imposed by this terrible disorder.

    I used to have Dick listed as “Rev. Dick Camp” in the Penn Relays program. One year, however, he told me that he didn’t deserve that special attention, wanting to be just “Dick Camp.” Perhaps a year or two later, however, he changed his mind and welcomed the fuller listing. So, once again he became Rev. Dick Camp for the announcer and spectators.

    What a gallant man you are, Dick. I will say some nice words for you tonight before I go to bed.

  2. wayne bennett - January 17, 2016

    Dick and I have shared a lot over the years. Glad to have you (Ken) alerted to this. Great reporting. He has been and will always be a good friend. One of his dreams and he accomplished it was to beat me in a race.

  3. Ken Stone - January 17, 2016

    Recent podcast interview with Dave:

  4. Doug Smith - January 18, 2016

    I have known Dick for several years, thanks to Masters Track. What a unique man he is. He introduced himself to me many years ago at a national championship meet, and we remained friends. I had the pleasure of competing with him at many national championship meets. He and I had discussions regarding Dave Sime, because I knew they were close friends. I competed against Dave in the 100m at the 1960 Coliseum Relays. Of course, Dave defeated me. Sadly, Dick is not in good health. He positively touched my life, and I will be grateful forever. God bless you, Dick, and your family.

  5. Roger Pierce - January 19, 2016

    Rev. Dick (and and you richly deserve to be called Reverend), I know you have been fighting Parkinson’s for a number of years yet I never heard you complain. You were a member of Mass Velocity for a while and it was a pleasure to watch you compete in the sprints.I watched with much joy, when your Houston Elite team set the 70+ 4 x 100m World Record at Penn a few years ago….I was so happy for all of you…Amazing effort.
    You are kind and compassionate human being and I consider it an honor to have known you.
    I never knew you were close do Dave Sime..You never dropped names around me…Wish you had..I thought he was incredible..
    Take care of youself and know many of us care about you..

  6. Les Kayanan, Ph.D. - January 29, 2016

    Chaplain Camp!
    What a fabulous story to read and to add to the blessings you’ve already given me! I will always count (at least) these two blessings from you: 1. your guidance and mentorship as I led our 1976-1977 FCA group helped me understand that leadership strength is developed as I strengthen my relationship with God; and 2. marital joy is achieved through the prayers Pam and I share each day – and since you married us as the first in our class at the West Point Chapel in 1977, I can tell you that it works! We’ll celebrate our 39th anniversary this June, and we will keep you, Virjean and your three children in our prayers in Thanksgiving. Blessings upon you – and thank you Kathy for doing what you do – as we send you our prayers and love. Go Army!
    Dr. Les Kayanan

  7. Barbara Jordan - January 29, 2016

    I went to Fair Lawn High School with Dick and Dave Sime. They were class of ’54 and I was ’53, and we were close friends. I reconnected with Dick at Masters T&F Meets and it was always great to see him and his wife Virjean when she came with him. I never met Kathy, their daughter but really admire her dedication to her Dad. The Camp family lives their faith and are an inspiration to us all.
    You are in my daily prayers Dick. I am grateful to be your friend.

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