Have you ever just had enough and wanted to say the heck with it all? I did. I sold my house and I’m #HomelessWithCancer but having the adventure of a lifetime.…
“My 11 year old is in leg braces due to chemo. PT and exercise is an ongoing difficulty. It hurts. But this weekend, I saw her running. I am grateful.”
The Camp Rainbow Foundation provides free camping experiences to children undergoing treatment for, and survivors of, cancer and blood-related diseases and disorders. We provide a recreational and nurturing environment for campers and their families, where the children can create positive memories, build self-esteem, make new friends and are relieved of the everyday stresses caused by their illness.
Now in it’s 30th year, the Camp Rainbow Foundation located in Wildwood, Missouri provides 6 unique programs serving children who have been diagnosed with cancer or other blood-related disorders. We also strive to serve their families, whose lives have been drastically altered by such serious illnesses.
“Self-esteem often flourishes in this judgment-free atmosphere”
Our 1-week Overnight Summer Camp and Day Camp programs are designed to provide these children with the opportunity to enjoy a true camping experience, since they often are unable to attend more conventional camps due to the limitations of their illness or course of treatment. An environment such as this allows our campers to interact with others who are currently sharing a similar life experience, while providing all of the fun activities one might expect from a traditional summer camp: arts and crafts, swimming, interactive music, nature, drama, sports, and special theme days.
Self-esteem often flourishes in this judgment-free atmosphere, where there is no societal pressure relative to the visual side effects of the illnesses (i.e., hair loss due to chemotherapy, scars, catheters, ports, wheelchair use, etc.) With a full medical staff on the premises, parents feel secure in the knowledge that each child’s unique medical needs can be met should an emergency arise, or if a chemotherapy treatment session happens to be scheduled during the camp day. This week of camp also relieves parents of caretaking responsibilities, allowing them to spend time with their other children who often do not receive much one-on-one time due to the needs of their sibling.
“Our aim is to brighten the long days of our in-patient campers”
For our campers who are unable to leave the hospital, or make frequent visits to the clinic for daily treatments, we have created a Camp-in program, where our volunteers bring camp activities to the hospitals. In an effort to meet the increasing demands of these programs, our goal is to be able to entertain a growing number of children. With the cooperation and help of hospital staff and medical professionals, our aim is to brighten the long days of our in-patient campers, and those spending an entire day in the outpatient clinic by offering games, craft projects, and other fun activities of the Oncology Floor at 3 area hospitals: St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, and Cardinal Kids Cancer Center at Mercy Medical Center.
“Cancer often strikes these campers at a time in their developmental years.”
Though their illnesses may be similar, the teens we serve face very different issues than our youngest campers. Understanding this, we created Teen Camp, a 3-day experience held in late March at Babler State Park. A unique subset of Pediatric Oncology, cancer often strikes these campers at a time in their developmental years where “fitting in” and social engagement are among the most important factors in their lives. From entering high school without hair to missing the school dance due to a hospitalization or course of treatment, the teens we serve face pressures and potential judgments that so often bypass the young patients. Our programming and activities therefore address more timely issues for these brave individuals, poised such as they are on the process of self-discovery and planning for their futures.
“Family Camp is free of charge to the families.”
The Camp Rainbow Family Camp was introduced in 2014. Held over Labor Day weekend at Trout Lodge in Potosi, MO, this interactive dynamic allows families of children with cancer to spend recreational time together, or to branch off and enjoy separate activities. The Trout Lodge property offers swimming, boating, and other typical beach-like activities, and research has shown that parents are able to draw support from others who are dealing with the same crisis as themselves. Siblings, too, derive a great deal of benefit from these few days; not only can they share feelings and experiences with others, but very often the learning process is valuable for all parties. The treasured bonding experience, away from hospitals and medical centers, is rare when dealing with a diagnosis of serious pediatric illnesses, and Family Camp strives to carve out a fun-filled a unique opportunity for this to occur. Like all of our other Camp Rainbow programs, Family Camp is free of charge to the families.
“Keeping people connected”
Our newest camp program, the Teens-N-Twenty Program offers a way for teens and 20-year-olds to remain connected with the friendships they establish during the weekend of Teen Camp. Such social connections are vitally important to the well being of our young-adult campers. Staying in touch with a friend who grasps the difficulty of what these campers are experiencing can be so very supportive and reassuring during some of the more challenging aspects of treatments as well as the day-to-day life with cancer.
“One in every 330 youths will be diagnosed with cancer before reaching the age of 20.”
In 2017, Camp Rainbow launched our Teens-N-Twenty Program. One in every 330 youths will be diagnosed with cancer before reaching the age of 20. Statistics suggest more than 10,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone. Teenagers with cancer face unique treatment challenges and require a different level of support than young children or adults. For many teens and young adults, the cancer diagnosis causes feelings of fear, isolation, frustration, and confusion. Time away from friends, school, sports as well as treatments which include loss of hair, weight gain, nausea, skin problems, fatigue, and routine hospitalizations have often been referred to as the “lost years” of their lives.
Camp Rainbow Teen Camp and our Teens-n-Twenty program provide teens with the opportunity to gain back some of this lost time through the creation of positive memories and experiences. In 2017, Camp Rainbow will serve approximately 250 campers through our teen programs. We will host the weekend Teen Camp at Babler State Park in Wildwood, MO as well as well as several day long activities throughout Missouri.
During our teen programs, Camp Rainbow provides opportunities for the teens and young adults to participate in experiences created to allow our campers the chance to offer and gain support from one another. Research has shown that teens diagnosed with cancer are able to draw support from interacting with other teens and young adults who are dealing with the same crises as themselves. By attending such a program, teens are able to discover that they are not alone, have their feelings validated, as well as learn effective coping strategies. The treasured bonding experience, away from hospitals and medical centers, is rare when dealing with a diagnosis of serious pediatric illnesses, and our teen programs strive to carve out a fun-filled and unique opportunities for this to occur.
Our next adventure includes the development of a Sibling Camp. The more research we do, the more apparent it has become that including the entire family in our camp programs is essential to the well being of our campers. We are currently researching and planning for this program.
“Camp Rainbow has truly been a home away from home. For years it has been a bright spot in my journey. It is one of my favorite places in the world.”
“I love Camp Rainbow. Seeing so many kids just like me allows me to feel normal again.”
“Camp Rainbow is a place of hope and magic which is hard to find these days. Camp is something very special.”
“Because of Camp Rainbow I have seen a smile on my son’s face again.”
Learn more about Camp Rainbow and all its great programs.
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