While summer camps are operating with restrictions in this new normal, many families with at-risk children, including those already battling life-threatening conditions, are looking for different ways to connect.
“This year, as with everything, things are a little different, so we’re doing what we’re calling Camp in a Box,” Whitney Craig, the Director of Cancer Services, said.
For 25 years, Cancer Services has hosted Camp Care, an opportunity to connect children who have been diagnosed with cancer as well as siblings of those diagnosed.
“The camp magic is what we call it to those interactions that they just have those moments that we as adults who I’ve never had cancer so I can’t connect on that level,” Craig said. “They get it with each other.”
With several great community partners, this year’s virtual camp will feature a variety of activities, demonstrations and speakers.
“We’ve got the Knock Knock Children’s Museum involved, St Joseph’s Academy stem lab is partnered with us,” Sarah Plaeger, the Children and Family Program Coordinator, said. “So it’s going to look different, but in a good way, we’re gonna be able to do things we previously weren’t able to do before.”
First-year attendee Annaleigh Fontenot is excited about experiencing Camp Care and working with its devoted staff.
“Just doing fun stuff like arts and crafts and seeing Ms. Sarah more often, Fontenot said”
Fontenot was diagnosed with a brain tumor three years ago, but following successful surgeries, her scans have been clear for nearly two years.
Father Chris Fontenot added, “She has to go to physical therapy although that had changed over the last two months, but she is improving and at the moment, she is cancer free, and that’s how it’s going to stay.”
“It’s incredible to see how resilient, the kids are,” Sarah Plaeger said. “With COVID going on, you hate to tell everybody no so much. There’s a lot of disappointment but you work with these kids, there’s just so much positivity on what’s gonna be going on with camp and they light up I get to talk to him on the phone I get to zoom with them and I’m kind of preparing myself you know okay it’s virtual this year, And then they just light up and that makes me feel like this is worth it, I do it for them.”
Even in a virtual setting, Camp Care will achieve its mission of allowing children who have experienced their own adversity to bond through it.
Craig added, “We’re still gonna have that chance for them to connect to get creative to kind of open their minds, hopefully get their parents, a little bit of a break. And then there’s also get that piece that they’ve been missing in isolation. Other kids who understand what they’re going through other children who have been there treatment, who have ports and medicines and all these things that are kind of keeping them out of social activities that now they’re able to kind of get together and be with kids who get it.”
And you can’t forget the traditional end of camp celebration and party.
“This year we’re going to feature a masquerade, thanks to Karnival Krewe de Louisiane.” Plaeger said. “We’re going to be making masks and have king cake recipe cards. I want say too much because there are some surprises in store, but that’s something that’s going to be totally new this year.”
Camp Care runs the full week of July 20th and if interested, you can still register children ages 5 to 13, by contacting Cancer Services. Each camper will receive their box with all the needed supplies.