Big Sky, Big Hearts
Harry and Sylvia Granaders Montana camp fulfills dreams for kids with cancer.
KERI ()TEN COHEN
Sto,:y Development Mitor
Gold •wk. Montana
his month, Harry and Sylvia Granader of
Beverly Hills will celebrate their 61st wed-
ding anniversary. Despite this remarkable
milestone, what they're really excited about is the
10th anniversary of Camp Mak-A-Dream, a sum-
mer camp for kids with cancer they founded on
their ranch in Montana.
In the past decade, more than 2,700 children and
young adults have attended the camp. They arrive
from across the nation, even from foreign countries.
They come with various forms ()Lancer
active treatment, some in recent reMISSiOn and sonic
in remission for years. •Ihev pay nothing f(')i- the
one-wL.'ek experience that allows them to feel -nor-
others who know firsthand what they
Another thing they share that week is
unconditional love from Harry, 88, and
Sylvia, 84t, who have eight grandchildren
of their own, but serve as surrogate grand-
parents to all at camp.
Each summer, the couple moves into
their ranch hOLISC On a bluff just a five-minute drive
from camp. They cat their meals with the kids in
the dining hall. 'Hwy participate in evening 'activi-
ties. "lhey listen, listen. listen and always encourage.
Sylvia's specialty is teaching campers to NA'Ca\ C in
the -art barn," where there's a corner filled with col-
orful skeins of yarn in every texture, a I00111 and
many small card looms. She uses the skills she
learned earning a master's degree in weaving from
Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills. But
mostly, she listens to quiet stories from kids with
cancer and gives them love.
Harry is a lifelong outdoorsman. In his uniform
of blue jeans and Camp Mak-A-Dream T-shirt, he
enjoys walking throughout camp, checking on
campers — some blind or missing limbs —
braving the ropes course or horsing around in
the swimming pool. At least once each \veL.:., he
gets 1.1p early to teach campers to thread wiggly
worms on hooks to catch the rainbow trout he
stocks in his manmade pond.
Ihe Granaders are proud of the camp, but even
prouder of the good it does for these children,
whose parents say they notice the difference Mime-
diatelv when they conic home from Montana.
"We're just doing a good deed f -or humanity,"
Harry says simply.
'rile Granaders didn't set out to make an extraordi-
nary difference in the lives of children with cancer.
Yet the course of their lives could never be called
Both are native Detroiters who net through
friends in the same neighborhood. A natural athlete
and all-city player from Central High School, Harry
earned a football scholarship to Wayne I.Jniversirv,
but licscame a Navy Air Force cadet before he gradu-
Sylvia earned a degree in art education
From Wayne. During her senior year, she
joined the Civil Air Patrol and got her
pilot's license. She had loved airplanes since
childhood, when she'd hang out at her
aunt's coffee shop across from Detroit's
City Airport watching takeoffs.
While taking Civil Air Patrol flying lessons at the
same time, they decided to go up in a Piper Cub
"I had the controls," Sylvia recalled. "1 gunned it
and off Nye went. He A'as surprised."
"We did get down safel•," Harry says dryl
Later, Sylvia joined the Women's Air Force Service
Pilots and served by flying combat planes from one
base to another so they'd he ready for their crews.
At 22,1 was a pioneering woman," Sylvia says
Sylvia was a Rena issance woman do i ng thi ngs
women do today, but not then," says brother-in-law-
Hadar Granader, president of the Friends of Camp
Mak-A-Dream, Michigan Chapter, a fund-raising
arm of the 'Montana camp.
"I was stationed on the East (Toast," Sylvia recalls,
and they wanted to transfer me to Waco [Iexas] to
tow targets. But they used live ammo during prac-
tices. It was either that or marry Harry."
Their family grew swiftly — they had five sons
within eight years. Sylvia had taught art, then stayed
at home to raise the boys — until she went for her
master's at Cranbrook.
Harry had several successful businesses
Lakes Lumber and Supply Co. and Bond-Bilt
Construction. They still live in the Beverly Hills
home Harry built 52 years ago.
In 1960, he connected with NIL:Donald's. Ray
Kroc had begun the franchise only five 'ears before,
and Harry owned store No. 306. Eventually he
owned several downriver. Now, his son Gary runs
the franchises. Amazin g.y,
20 years until retiring last year.
Because he vas a builder, the company involved
Harry in building the Ronald _McDonald houses in
Detroit IIid Ann Arbor.
"I raised $300,000 selling milkshakes," he says.
Harry began visiting kids at Children's Hospital of
Michigan in Detroit and families at the Ronald
"Harry got to know the doctors and children,"
Sylvia explains. When he came home with tears in
his eyes, I knew he had been there. He always want-
ed to do someth ing directly for the children.
"I don't know how, but he persevered and did it
at 75. When he wants to get something done,
Harry says humbly, "I didn't do it alone."
Although he had helped to build Congregation
Beth Shalom in Oak Park, where his sons had their
bar mitzvahs and he had served as president, Harry
was not that actively involved in the Jewish
He was interested in hunting and fishing,
and taught his sons to wrestle and exercise reg-
ularly. He still does 200 sit-ups each day,