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Family Matters - Summer 2010

Today’s the day we’re going camping

It’s summertime and the living is easy ― at least that’s what the song says. For young patients in the MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, summer means the end of school and time for an assortment of camps.

Camp Star Trails:

This overnight camp for patients and their siblings ages 5 to 12, is a week full of traditional camp activities. Each year in mid-June, a bus with some 125 young campers takes off from MD Anderson to travel to Camp For All, a unique barrier free camp in Burton, Texas that works in partnership with other non-profits to enrich the lives of children with challenging illnesses. This camping site is designed for children with special needs and accommodates any medical issues that may arise. At Camp Star Trails, there’s always at least one physician and two oncology nurses on duty.

Everything from swimming to fishing to horseback riding is part of the schedule. Campers also have the opportunity to be creative in the Art Barn and to try the tests of the challenge course, which is complete with low and high ropes, a climbing tower and a giant swing. Coming down one of the zip lines is the grand finale. At the end of the week, the young patients have a meaningful wish boat ceremony where each child makes a wish and sends it off on a boat across the lake.

Cooking Camp:

Patients unable to make it to the overnight camps have the opportunity to enjoy special camps created just for them at the Children’s Cancer Hospital. New this year was a Cooking Camp held in the kitchen on Floor 9 of the Children’s Cancer Hospital. Chef Tarsha, local chef and owner of Crave Gourmet Bakery & Catered Café, came twice weekly in June for two-hour sessions in the kitchen. Chef Tarsha’s cooking camp is a healthy food education program with a mission to combat childhood obesity while promoting healthy food education and practical hands-on culinary exposure.

Quilting Camp:

Another opportunity for young patients in treatment this summer was a Quilting Camp, which was organized by quilters from the Kingwood Quilters Guild. The quilters visited every Wednesday, June 16 to July 21. Quilting stations in the clinic and the PediDome were set up and the quilters also worked with patients bedside in the Pediatric Ambulatory Treatment Center and inpatient rooms. The goal was for children to decorate a fabric square with fabric markers for the quilters to use to make a large quilt for display in the Children’s Cancer Hospital. In addition, each patient also received a small quilt to decorate and take home.

Beach Bash:

A unique in-hospital camp is also held each summer. In the past, the camp was coordinated with a special theme for the children who were not able to go to away-camp. The camps began in 2007 with “Rockin’ in the Rainforest” and continued in 2008 with “Polar Blast” and in 2009 with “Beach Bash.”

This summer, the camp adventure will be open to all patients and was once again be a “Beach Bash” theme. From July 26-30, the PediDome and the Robin Bush Clinic were transformed to reflect the beach environment. Children attending the camp learned about the ocean and the beach and all the creatures who live in the sea. Crafts, guest speakers and more were part of the fun.

Camp A.O.K.:

This camp, which is for "Anderson’s Older Kids," is an overnight camp designed to offer a break from the world of cancer treatments and hospital rooms to teen patients in MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital. Scheduled this year for Aug. 9-14, some 50 teen patients and their siblings will head off for a week of hope, laughter and healing.

Like Camp Star Trails, this is a traditional overnight camp for ages 13-18 held at the Fred Lennon Youth Camp facility near Magnolia, Texas. The camp offers swimming, canoeing, fishing, archery, team games and more. At the end of the week, teens prepare for a special prom, a magical evening that allows teens who may have missed “milestones” like high school dances an opportunity to make lasting memories – and lasting friendships.

Camp Makes Everything Good

Linda Blankenship, director of Camp Star Trails and Camp A.O. K., has a smile when you bring up summer camp. “The counselors and I always remember the good times when we think about summer camp. It’s amazing to watch so many of these children grow up and return summer after summer and often even come back as camp counselors. These are landmark experiences in their lives – and in ours as well.”

All in all, that’s what summer camp is all about. Whether it is an away-camp or an in-hospital camp, young patients learn, have fun and make friends that “make it all better.” We hope that today’s the day you’re going camping.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center