The volunteers at Arizona Camp Sunrise & Sidekicks have always been proud of the programming that we offer to siblings of children affected by cancer. Barb Nicholas, Executive Director of AZ Camp Sunrise & Sidekicks shares the following story, showing why we are so passionate about sibling programming.
I received a call from a parent (Mary) of a sibling camper (Sidekick) (Nick) before summer camp began. She was concerned about sending her son to camp. He was having such a hard time with the fact that his younger bother (John) had been diagnosed with cancer.
Mary wanted to be sure that Nick would be ok coming to camp. “What if he doesn’t make friends”, “What if he has a hard time being away from us”? All very normal questions from a parent sending her child to camp for the first time. She went on to tell me that Nick was so angry that his brother was sick , he was so quiet and sad and she wanted to be sure that we would be extra sensitive to his needs. I assured her that Nick would be well taken care of, at the end of the conversation she decided Nick would come to camp.
At camp Nick thrived, he made friends, took Archery class, rode in a canoe. Did all the things that kids do at camp, and he did another thing as well…he talked to other kids who were just like him. He listened to other kids talk about cancer, how they were afraid too. He came to understand that even though you are afraid and scared you can get through it.
I got another call from Mary a few days after camp ended. They had come up to camp and picked Nick up. She said “Barb I don’t know what you did to/for Nick at camp, but on the way home from camp it was the first time since his brother was diagnosed with cancer that he actually talked about it! He asked us questions and he told us stories about the other kids he had met that had siblings with the same kind of cancer as his brother had. He had hope Barb. For the first time he had hope.”
She was so thankful, so amazed at what had happened. This is what camps does for kids, gives them opportunities to be kids, to have that attention they need and to give them hope. Nick continues to come to camp and now his little brother goes to camp as well. He is in his 3rd year of remission. Now they both have something to look forward to each summer. They get to go to camp, they get to be kids and they get to have hope.