Summer camps for kids with cancer: powerful medicine without the side effects
Cancer doesn’t have to be a reason for a child to miss the fun and excitement of camp.
Children affected by cancer, ages 4 through high school, are invited to attend one of the American Cancer Society’s summer camp in New England – located in Connecticut, Maine, and Rhode Island. These camps are a special place where kids with cancer can simply smile, laugh and play; a place where they are not treated as “different” or “sick;” a place where they can just be happy, fun-loving kids again sharing a common bond as cancer survivors.
Carl Hanson from Hampden, Maine, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when he was 8 years old. Hanson had half of his pancreas, his gall bladder, and part of his small intestine removed and is currently cancer free. “When I first came here [Camp Rainbow] in 2002, I didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “What I found was a family.” Carl has attended Camp Rainbow every summer since his surgery.
In 2011, when he turned 18 and graduated from high school, he volunteered to return as a camp counselor and mentor to other campers. “The people I meet here are so amazing,” he said. I don’t see my own struggle as very big compared with theirs.” Carl’s experience has shaped his life in more ways than one – in September 2011, he entered UMass Amherst to study biology in preparation for medical school.
Funds raised at Relay For Life events help support these summer camps. “My family and I have participated in the Relay For Life of Penobscot County Survivor/Caregiver Lap and Luminaria Ceremony since 2002,” says Hanson. “As a survivor, the reading of the names of those who are remembered and honored is very moving.”
While both counselors and campers do talk about their experiences with cancer and what they’ve been through, they’re really there to have fun. Days filled with activities like swimming, arts and crafts, singing, and just having a good time with others like them. So much of a good time they keep coming back year after year. According to Carl, “My mother always said ‘Camp Rainbow is powerful medicine with no bad side effects,’ and I agree wholeheartedly with that!”
If you know of a child that would benefit from attending one of the Society’s summer camp programs or would like more information, please call 1-800-227.2345 or learn more at cancer.org/NEcamps.