Space Suit Art Brings Hope to Pediatric Patients
The Arts in Medicine Program has one primary goal – to help young patients feel better. The program connects pediatric patients and their families to visual arts, music, theater, and dance through community collaborations, large-scale projects, and one-on-one experiences. These activities give patients a sense of control and purpose, reduce anxiety and pain, make patients more comfortable in the hospital environment, and build community among patients and families.
Through our Camps Program, each summer we give patients the chance to get away from the hospital and enjoy time in the outdoors with other young people. For patients and siblings ages six to 12, we offer Camp Star Trails. During this week-long camp, kids can participate in archery, arts and crafts, canoeing, kayaking, cooking, creative arts, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking, team sports and swimming. They can also visit a small animal farm and tackle an obstacle course.
Camp A.O.K. is an overnight, week-long camp for patients and siblings, ages 13 to 18. Activities include horseback riding, fishing, canoeing, tennis, swimming, archery, team sports, arts and crafts, cooking, dancing and more. The week closes with Prom Night, where dresses, tuxes and hair styling services are all provided before a formal dinner and dance. Both camps have physicians and oncology nurses present at all times, and both are free.
To apply to be a camp volunteer, please fill our our online volunteer application.
For more information on our camps, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pediatric cancer patients may never get a chance to go to traditional summer camps. That’s why former childhood cancer survivor and former camper Oguna Taylor has volunteered with our children’s Camps Program for the last 16 years.
The Camps Program provides opportunities for our pediatric patients to get away from the hospital and enjoy time in the outdoors with other young people. It includes two week-long, sleep-away camps: Camp Star Trails for ages 6-12 and Camp A.O.K. for ages 13-18. The camps are offered at no cost to MD Anderson pediatric patients and their siblings.
“I want to find a way to help these kids feel safe and normal again,” Taylor says. “At camp, they’re going through a common battle to live another day and see the future.”
Spending time with the children gives Taylor a chance to reconnect with our mission and her roots in pediatric nursing. A clinical information specialist on our OneConnect team, she started her career at MD Anderson as a nurse, and in 2001 she began volunteering at Camp A.O.K. as a camp nurse. In 2004, she transferred to a counselor position.
“I’ve been to camp as a patient going through chemo, and I refused to take off my wig. I was closed off to socializing with the other kids. But being part of an experience like this changed me. It brought me out of my shell and made me who I am today,” Taylor explains.
Where it’s good to feel normal and OK to be emotional
“I made lifelong friends going to camp and being with others in similar situations,” Taylor says. “'Well friends’ have empathy, but they don’t truly understand. At camp, it’s OK to be emotional. To cry. To feel sad about what you’re going through. But you have to push forward, keep fighting and keep the light inside ignited.”
“Week-long sleep-away camps for patients and their siblings offer a break from ‘being sick’ to let them be normal kids, without interrupting their treatments,” says Lauren Shinn, who manages special patient programing for our Children’s Cancer Hospital.
She focuses on developing programs that aren’t just fun but also provide therapeutic value to the children. Shinn looks for activities that help them better understand their diagnosis and connect with their peers.
A safe space to participate in camp activities
Even when they’re not under active treatment, our pediatric patients may have long-term side effects that regular summer camps aren’t equipped to handle. Shinn makes sure there are activities for everyone, no matter what their physical capabilities. She believes it’s valuable for these children to have a chance to feel like cancer hasn’t taken away all their normal childhood experiences.
The kids can take part in many traditional camp activities, such as archery, arts and crafts, canoeing, cooking class, fishing, horseback riding, ropes challenge course, sports, swimming and a camp prom.
A full on-site medical clinic makes camp a safe retreat. It’s staffed by MD Anderson employees and includes a physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, in- and outpatient nurses, child life specialists and a psychology team. This clinic allows patients in active treatment to attend camp while still receiving medications, infusions and lab work throughout the week, if necessary.
“Treatment puts a pause on life. The medical clinic on site provides a way for the kids to be kids outside the hospital walls,” Shinn says.
A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson’s bimonthly employee publication.
Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance is made up of parent consultants who have or had a child with cancer. They can help with day-to-day issues, like parking passes and grocery store gift cards. Candlelighters also holds a weekly parent support group, every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Ronald McDonald Family Waiting Room. The group also offers academic scholarships to pediatric cancer patients and survivors. For more information, contact our parent consultants, Jaynie Hutchinson and Roseanna Daly, at 713-792-4891.
A cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean young people should give up on their goals. The Children’s Cancer Hospital offers Career and Vocational Counseling to help patients get ready for college, enter the workforce and even advance their careers. Young people can get help applying to college and vocational programs; preparing for the GED or college entrance exams; exploring different career paths; and applying for financial aid. We can also help college students get a leave of absence or reduced academic schedule, or obtain special accommodations. For young adults, we can help with job searches, resume writing, and interviewing skills. Contact the career and vocational counseling program at 713-792-6767.
The Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Life Program is here to help young people and their families. Our team of specialists and assistants understands the impact of cancer, painful procedures and hospital stays. Their job is to reduce this impact and help improve coping skills. They do this by building relationships with patients and families; providing them with education and support; hosting events and activities; and giving them opportunities to express themselves.
Child Adolescent and Young Adult Life specialists usually meet patients during one of their first trips to the hospital. From there, they play a key role in each patient’s care, including:
- Introducing patients to the hospital in a friendly, non-threatening way
- Educating them about their disease, diagnosis and treatment
- Teaching patients about procedures in age-appropriate ways
- Showing children, adolescents and young adults way to cope during medical procedures
- Providing emotional support to patients and families during these procedures
- Visiting patients at the bedside to provide activities and the opportunity to talk
- Offering young people a sense of control by giving them chance to make choices whenever possible
- Providing the opportunity to play and socialize by staffing our inpatient and outpatient playrooms
- Coordinating special events and activities for patients, siblings and parents
- Helping parents understand how cancer is impacting their child’s development and well-being
- Helping siblings and other family members understand a child’s illness
The Children’s Art Project is a special creative arts program where patients' designs are incorporated into greeting cards, jewelry and other products. Proceeds from product sales benefit patient-focused programs at the Children's Cancer Hospital and MD Anderson.
Cancer can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.
The myCancerConnection program puts caregivers and patients in touch with someone who’s been in the same position. Your myCancerConnection partner can help with practical advice or just be there to listen and understand what you're going through. The program will even try to match you with a parent whose child shares your child’s diagnosis.
The Pediatric Education and Creative Arts Program is here to meet the educational needs of our patients. Our certified, master-level teachers work with young people from pre-k to 12th grade. We have an accredited on-site private school, tutoring for students who remain enrolled in their regular school, and support for students who are ready to return to their class. We also offer tutoring for AP courses, the PSAT and English as a Second Language for both patients and families. Patients can also participate in painting, pottery, yoga, music therapy and more. We take students on field trips to local attractions and host special presentations from the Houston Zoo, the Museum of Natural Science and others. Contact the school at:
- Phone: 713-745-5059
- Fax: 713-792-0608
- Email: email@example.com