Kids get help dealing with cancer in the family. Read the Chicago Tribune's story about Edward's Camp Hope.
Kids get help dealing with cancer in the family
Naperville's Edward Hospital runs a summer camp for 5- to 12-year-olds
By Joseph Ruzich | Special to the Tribune
July 8, 2009
The realities of growing up came fast for 12-year-old Brendan Burgess, who learned in January that his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I felt sad," the Plainfield 7th grader said. "Since then, I have learned more about cancer. I can talk about it more now."
Brendan and 15 other children recently participated in a weeklong summer camp, Camp Hope, for children ages 5 to 12 who have a parent or close family member with cancer. The camp, which is free, is sponsored by the Edward Cancer Center in Naperville.
Social workers from the cancer center facilitate a variety of programs including therapeutic breakout sessions, arts and crafts, music therapy, scrapbooking, martial arts, group discussion and children's yoga. They hold two separate weeklong sessions each summer. The next session will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 10 to 14 in the Edward Health & Fitness Center, 6660 S. Illinois Highway 53 in Woodridge.
"Cancer is hard on everyone -- the patient, the family and even children," said social worker Sharon Kelleher, 59. "Children are often left out emotionally since the patient or parent is constantly involved in medical treatment. For example, we knew one mother who would take her own mother back and forth to the hospital. She has very little time to spend with her children. Here at the camp kids can be kids."
Social worker Linda Conlin, 50, said the therapeutic breakout sessions and group discussions teach children they are not alone.
"We talk about their feelings," Conlin said. "Sometimes they feel angry and afraid. It's tough for children to cope. They can't express themselves like adults who often reach out to a friend and talk about the situation. Kids usually hold their feelings inside and it comes out in behaviors such has clinging, quietness or even nightmares."
Jill Webster, 34, volunteers her time to teach yoga to children as a way of coping with stress. During one lesson, Burgess and the other students were sitting on a large mat, chanting "om" and focusing on the "third eye," a spiritual center that Eastern mystics say is on the forehead between the two physical eyes.
"We talked about stress and how yoga can help you relax," Webster said. "Deep breaths, for example, can help calm the mind. But [yoga] also helps them to get to know their body better, which gives them self-confidence."
Camp Hope was started in 2005 by Conlin and a nurse at the cancer center. The program, which costs the Edward Cancer Center about $9,000 for the entire year, is funded by private donors.
Each class can accommodate 25 students per session.
Conlin said anyone can donate to the program and several slots are open for the August session.
Rachael Millard, 10, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, said she likes being around other kids who understand her situation.
"Camp is fun and I like talking with the other kids," said Rachael, a 5th grader from Naperville who has some advice for other kids with a family member battling cancer. "Stay positive, talk to your fiends and don't forget to do your homework."
For more information or to register, call 630-527-6363.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services