Finding Inspiration Amidst Our Loss

Dear Vega Family,

We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and words of comfort we have received from so many of you over the loss of our 2020 Summer.  “Thank you” does not come close to expressing how we feel.

As we move forward in our new reality we are developing new ways to stay engaged and support each other.  Please look for more information in the near future.

In the meantime, we are proud to recognize a truly heroic member of the Vega staff, Mariah Bywater, RN.  When not at Vega, Mariah travels the globe helping wherever she is needed most.  She returned in early May from the epicenter of the Italian COVID-19 outbreak, and is set to fly to South Sudan at a moments notice.

We asked Mariah to share her experiences, and hope that you find the same strength and inspiration in reading her words as we did.

Stay safe and much love,
Kyle, Emily, Linda and the Camp Vega Team

May 2020

To My Dear Vega Family,

My heart is filled to overflowing with all that I long to share with each one of you. I want to sit across a table from you with big cups of coffee and hear all that is on your hearts and minds. I long to slip a few more ice pops out of the freezer, apply a few band-aids, and know that smiles, hugs, and my listening ear are right here for you. I ache to hear all the hurts, the frustrations, the anger, the joys, the new skills learned, the opportunities to grow, the compassion and the kindness you have both extended and received.

As I look back over these past couple months, our world looks so very different from the summer spent with our Vega family. Many of you learned, in small snapshots, pieces of what I do as a nurse when I am not loving on and caring for you at Lovejoy. I have the unique joy and privilege of taking my nursing skills all over the world when there are disasters; things like war, refugee crises, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, fires, and those overwhelming needs that arise on a moment’s notice. Coronavirus has presented just such a need.

Recently, I have spent six weeks in Northern Italy caring for COVID-19 patients, hoping with each passing day that we would grow closer to finding ways to treat it, prevent it, and keep you, dear ones, safe from it. Each night as I went on shift, I dressed for the most important costume party ever, the one that kept both me and you safe. The long hours were spent providing medical care and compassion to incredibly sick patients. There is no way to truly share with you both the joy and heart ache of that amazing privilege.

As my weeks in Italy slipped by, I found my thoughts turning more and more to each of you, to the uncertainty, to the questions, to the disappointments felt as each of you also saw that summer would not be what we have such delight in looking forward to each year. I began thinking of each of you and the way that through this we are able to shine even brighter by holding up the torch of the Vega values we have learned together. Believing that we can do this. We can get through and be stronger and braver than we have ever been.

We can Build Unity by caring for one another, being compassionate as we consider others and selflessly give of ourselves to make sure that we all stay safe.

We can Choose Gratitude as we choose to be grateful for those who are risking their own safety to make sure that others live, that others have the things they need, that others are put first. As our friends and families each make sacrifices, we are learning to say “Thank you” in so many ways.

We have been given the opportunity to Have Empathy, to look around at a world that is hurting and to see where we can come alongside and support and encourage them, understanding that this Pandemic gives us an even greater ability to share in the feelings of others because we are all in this together.

And with each step we Live with Integrity, we do what is right, we do what is honorable, what is beautiful, what is true, what is selfless, what puts the needs of others above our own comfort.

With all this in mind, I put on the protective barriers, and I enter into the uncomfortable to bring comfort to those who are in desperate need of it. As I go, know that I carry a piece of each of you into the dark of this night. For as each one of us touch other’s lives, fingerprints are left that cannot be erased. They change us, they shape us, and they are part of who we are. You have each left fingerprints on my life, and this summer though my heart will be longing to be with each of you on the beautiful shores of Echo Lake, I have been called to take what I have learned about Coronavirus to those who are suffering in South Sudan with the hopes that we can serve their needs and get ahead of the outbreak there so that lives will be spared, that treatments will be found, that we can stop the spread, and see our world persevere with that resilience we share.

Sending each of you a Golden Loon Award for being YOU!

My Love and Prayers,


Mariah Bywater, RN