“Letting Kids With Cancer Be Kids Again”

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Every summer, I think about wanting to make a difference and to do something within my future career. As I was looking up summer camps online towards the end of my sophomore year at Central, I found this camp called Camp Quality. The thing that really made me want to sign up to be a volunteer was their motto: “Letting kids with cancer be kids again”. I fully believe in the impact an adult figure can have on a young mind especially with one’s who have been through so much.

With a Dose of Smile Therapy. . .

Camp Quality is a summer camping experience and year-round support program for children with cancer. Many difficult physical and emotional challenges face a child, and his or her family, when battling cancer. At our summer camps we have developed an important type of “therapy” . . . we like to call it Smile Therapy! With a laugh in their hearts and smiles on their faces, Camp Q. Kids find themselves capable of more than they may have dreamed possible.

We Laugh, Love, Lift-up . . .

Camp Quality has built its reputation on personalized care. Every camper is paired with a companion who is dedicated completely to his or her care. Companions are the life-blood of Camp Quality; they are fun to be with, adventuresome, great listeners and are always sharing their love for life. Their primary responsibility is to make sure their camper has the most enjoyable, safe, relaxing and restoring experience possible. This relationship creates a beautiful bond that continues long after camp is over, and oftentimes for years to come.

Normal Kids with Extraordinary Lives . . .

Surrounded by new friends that can relate, loving volunteers who care, and loads of fun experiences, Camp Quality campers find joy, new courage and renewed hope for the future. They are free to be themselves . . . free to be kids again.

At the YMCA Camp Copneconic Center near Fenton, MI, I spent a week being a companion to an 11 year old girl who is a 2 year cancer survivor. She told me her story about going through chemo, radiation, and therapy from this deadly cancer of the blood. To hear this story and see pictures of her battle inspired me more to continue helping and serving kids within the Occupational Therapy field as she went through OT herself.

We decorated our room along with our roommates to go along with the theme “Game On” as we were the Pink Gymnasts Team. All week long, we did events to earn points and wear pink as much as possible to beat the other teams to serve our camper dinner the last night (and dress ridiculously while doing so). Our team was so inspired every day to decorate the main room, come up with dances and chants, and find flags to earn extra points. Although we were in the lead the last day, the yellow team donated their points to the orange team (our rivalry) to win in the end.

During the week, the campers were able to choose what events they wanted to do: free swim, AquaJump, archery, fishing, canoeing, zip lining, arts & crafts (new ones everyday), rock climbing, tie-dying, horseback riding, rocket creations/launching, and MUCH more! There were competitions in the mornings to earn points for little games, human sundaes, therapy dogs, a talent show, and getting pampered during “For A Day” (nails, make-up, cookie making, tattoos, jewelry making, and hair designs done from outside volunteers).

After spending 24/7 with my camper for a week, I really was able to teach my most important concept in life; staying positive. There were times where she felt self-conscious or scared about trying something new and I had to just keep reminding her to stay positive. She made so many new friends or reconnected with old ones throughout the week that helped keep her spirits up as well. I hope she continues this attitude after camp and I will be there to help or support her after camp with her future endeavors as well.

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