Sun, 02/21/2016 - 8:00 AM | by Pete Mackin

By Tina Jacob

The groundhog didn’t see his shadow so it looks like warm weather is right around the corner and that means summer camp season is quickly approaching! A fun-filled week of eating gooey s’mores beside a bonfire, swimming in the lake, and singing cheesy camp tunes at the top of your lungs is almost upon us. For many of us, summers were a time of carefree fun as kids.  But for many children who have been affected by cancer, summer vacation may not be as pleasant.  Children diagnosed with cancer spend their days in and out of hospitals for chemotherapy going through tremendous amounts of physical and mental stress. Likewise, children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer also experience daily stress, anxiety, fear, and disruption of their normal routine. Fortunately there are specific camps such as Camp Little Red Door and Camp Kesem that can help kids who have been affected by cancer take a break from their everyday struggles and enjoy a traditional camp experience. All the while surrounded by other kids who know exactly what they are going through.

Camp Little Red Door is an annual camp for Indiana children ages 8-18 who have cancer or are in remission. Campers can even bring a sibling or friend with them to enjoy camp! This year, the camp will take place Sunday, June 19, 2016 through Friday, June 24, 2016 at Bradford Woods in Martinsville, Indiana. Camps like Camp LRD foster community and leadership skills allowing children to bond with others who are going through similar experiences. Older campers act as mentors for campers who were recently diagnosed to help guide them through this scary and emotional journey. Research shows that children who participate in camps such as these have higher self-esteem. Oftentimes kids diagnosed with cancer are treated as broken or fragile by their peers who have not experienced cancer and camp allows them to be with peers who can see past the disease and treat one another like normal kids. They get to be themselves and go fishing, swimming, horseback riding, and other everyday summer activities without much thought to their illness; although a medical team is onsite to address any health care needs that arise.

Camp Kesem is designed for children ages 6-16 whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer. Camp Kesem gives these children a chance to let loose and just be kids at a time when their home life is filled with many ups and downs. There is a strong community of support from other children going through the same struggles. At home, many children feel as though they always have to be strong for their family. At Camp Kesem, they meet other kids just like them giving them the opportunity to create strong support networks to assist them on their unique journey with cancer. It is a space where they can let go of the stress at home and just be regular kids.

Seeing those smiles there is no denying that camps like these have a positive effect on children affected by cancer. No child deserves to go through a cancer journey, but Camp LRD and Camp Kesem help provide them with resources and support to get through it while having some much deserved fun!