It isn’t easy dealing with a cancer diagnosis, and sometimes it can be even harder for your child to understand and accept the illness. That’s why, for the past 15 years, ProMedica has offered CHAMPS Camp (Choosing Hope and Moving Past Sadness) for children and teens ages 6-15 who have a family member with cancer.
“Campers have told us the best part is meeting other youth and knowing there are others going through similar changes,” explains CHAMPS Camp organizer, Nancy Elzinga. “Now, they don’t feel so alone.”
Elzinga says that while at camp, participants learn positive ways to cope with loss and how and where to access further resources if needed. Regularly attending support groups and individual counseling may also aid in changing life situations.
According to Elzinga, open communication between the parent and child is critical to helping your child or teen fully cope with the news.
“Often what they fear is worse than reality,” says Elzinga. “Parents can offer information in honest, hopeful and age-appropriate ways. Teenagers will often have many more questions than younger children. It is helpful to let them know we are in this together and that they can ask questions, get answers and reassurance.”
Activities that kids and teens may find helpful or therapeutic in these situations include journaling, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and offering ways to be involved and helpful, like preparing a meal or doing an extra chore around the house.
The Perfect Place to Heal
This year’s camp, which runs September 16-18, will be held at the YMCA Camp Storer in Jackson, Michigan. Horseback riding, canoeing, bonding by the campfire, crafting—these are just a few of the activities that campers can enjoy throughout the weekend of healing.
In this special setting, campers have the opportunity to connect with others in similar circumstances and rely on trained facilitators.
“It’s very touching to see children arrive with apprehension and within a short time, observe them fully engaged in activities and conversation,” says Elzinga. “It’s so rewarding at the end of camp to see them exchanging contact information, giving us hugs and realizing what the weekend meant to them.”
More information with a detailed flyer about this year’s CHAMPS Camp at Camp Storer can be found on the ProMedica Cancer Facebook page.