POTSDAM — The adventurous, outdoor spirit of a Canton teenager who died of cancer two years ago will live on through a two-story home that’s being renovated at 185 Wilkinson Road.
Surrounded by 200 acres of woodland, the scenic property will become The Lodge at Dreaming Tree Ranch. It will serve as a retreat for area families dealing with pediatric cancer or other life-altering events.
The project is being spearheaded by the Help Sami Kick Cancer Foundation. The foundation was established by James and Karen Curtis after their 18-year-old daughter, Samantha “Sami” Curtis, died in May 2017 following a two-year battle with cancer.
The vision includes offering nature trails for walking, skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, side-by-side ATV riding, campfires, swimming, fishing, hunting and a sugar house for making maple syrup.
The Curtis couple purchased the home Feb. 11 on behalf of the foundation. Donations are being accepted to help renovate the home including installing an elevator and updating bathrooms to make them handicapped accessible. The land adjoins property the couple already owned.
“Cancer takes so much out of a family, especially when it’s a child who is the fighter of this awful disease,” Mrs. Curtis said. “Sami touched the lives of so many and inspired them to do great things. We are so proud of the life she led and the inspiration she continues to instill in everyone who hears her story.”
The goal is to create a place that provides compassion, understanding and fun in a natural setting where families can create lasting memories.
Jacob C. Newman, a spokesman for the foundation, said the lodge has hundreds of acres to explore and will be a place for families to recharge and escape from cancer for awhile.
“It’s a place to make lasting memories and have outdoor adventures,” Mr. Newman said. “Sami always said she wanted her efforts to go toward helping people, not a machine or instrument for a hospital that was going to charge people to use it anyway. There is no better way to honor Sami Curtis’ legacy than to combine her passion for helping others with her love of the outdoors.”
Since childhood Miss Curtis had been involved with raising thousands of dollars for the St. Lawrence County Cancer Foundation. She was a foundation board member since age 13.
She served as an FFA Club officer and was also a three-sport athlete at Canton Central School. She received the Liberty Award, the highest honor presented by the U.S. Senate and the 2017 Woman of Distinction Award from state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.
Before Miss Curtis passed, she was told the funds she had raised since 2015 for the St. Lawrence County Cancer Fund would be transferred to the Northern New York Community Foundation to create a legacy fund.
Mr. Newman said Miss Curtis decided she wanted to be remembered through annual donations to the Canton FFA for jacket awards, Honey Dew Acres for young horse riders impacted by cancer, St. Mary’s Catholic School which she attended for her elementary grades and Camp Ta Kum Ta, a pediatric cancer camp in South Hero, Vt.
“The Lodge at Dreaming Tree Ranch is the next step in expanding her legacy to continue helping more children and their families,” he said.