Indian Summer Camp

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

For kids undergoing cancer treatment, it can be tough to actually feel like a kid. Indian Summer Camp is working to change that. We spoke with Shelby Russell, executive director of Kids Cancer Alliance, to learn more about this program and what it’s working to provide for the community.

What exactly is Indian Summer Camp?
Indian Summer Camp is Kids Cancer Alliance’s week-long camp that lets kids with cancer build friendships and focus on the important things in life – like arts and crafts, swimming, hiking and s’mores! Indian Summer Camp allows these special kids to take a break from hospital stays and their treatment and allows them a week to just be kids again. At Indian Summer Camp, we strive to give kids with cancer back the piece of their childhood that cancer took away.

Who is permitted to attend?
Any child between the ages of 6 and 18 who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer or who may be a survivor of cancer is eligible to attend. In addition, we have a “Day Camp” option for children battling cancer who are under the age of 6 or are too sick to attend for the full week. We want all children affected by childhood cancers to have a normal summer camp experience regardless of age or the stage of their illness.

 What is the cost for the camp?
Because we understand the financial strain that childhood cancer puts on families, Kids Cancer Alliance provides all programs 100 percent FREE of charge to every child and family. Thanks to compassionate donors who make our programs possible for these deserving children, we have never had to turn a child away.

 How did Indian Summer Camp originate?
Indian Summer Camp was started by a group of volunteers who had the vision of providing a “normal” camp experience for children with cancer. At the time, there were very few camps of this kind across the country. During the first summer, 20 campers attended Indian Summer Camp along with volunteer staff consisting of doctors and nurses and community members.  The camp has grown each and every year with the support of the local community.

 What does Indian Summer Camp offer pediatric cancer patients that they don’t have elsewhere?
Because children with cancer are facing a life-threatening illness and have weakened immune systems, they are often taken out of their schools and isolated from their peers. They often miss out on traditional childhood experiences and are thrust into a world of long hospital stays, painful treatments and a host of emotional stress. At Indian Summer Camp, we give these deserving children a chance to bond with others who understand their circumstances, make valuable memories, learn new coping skills and have once-in-a-lifetime experiences all while in a medically safe environment. We let children with cancer know they are not alone and give them the chance to be kids again instead of cancer patients.

What kind of growth has the camp seen over the years?
Over the past 34 years, Indian Summer Camp has seen tremendous growth thanks to our donors and volunteers. We have gone from 20 campers the first year to an expected 126 campers next week. In addition to an increase in campers, we have added additional camps, retreats and support programs for children with cancer and their families. Much of this growth is attributed to awareness of our programs within the childhood cancer community as well as support from the local community.

Are there ways to get involved with Indian Summer Camp or Kids Cancer Alliance?
As a non-profit organization, Kids Cancer Alliance relies entirely on your donations to keep our programs free for these families and children. By making a gift or volunteering your time, you help strengthen the alliance and give families back a little bit of what cancer took away. To make a gift or learn about other ways to help, visit kidscanceralliance.org

Does Kids Cancer Alliance have any upcoming fundraisers?
Yes! Our annual “Concert for the Cause” event, presented by US WorldMeds, is being held at the Louisville Marriott Downtown on August 29. Individual tickets are $200, and tables of 10 are $2,000 – this includes a seated dinner, cocktails, Jim Beam bourbon tasting, live and silent auctions and a concert featuring country music star Jana Kramer. It’s a really fun evening and all for a great cause! For more info or to purchase tickets visit bidpal.net/kca. VT