Published on April 18, 2013

Camp Genesis -- For kids coping with cancer in the family

Pre-register by May 3

About 60 Quad City-area kids dealing with the stress of cancer in their family will be able to take a break from it all at Camp Genesis this summer.

There will be campfires, canoeing, horseback riding and an Alpine adventure tower at Scott County Family Y Camp Abe Lincoln in Blue Grass, Iowa. More important, there also will be a chance to build friendships with kids going through a similar situation.

Best of all, Camp Genesis participants will receive daily education and support from Gilda’s Club of the Quad Cities experts, who are trained to help youngsters deal with the emotional and social challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis in the family. Because the camp is located just 12 miles south of downtown Davenport, they can get away without having to travel too far away from their sick loved one.

This year, Camp Genesis will be held July 7-12 for youth ages 6-16. The camp is sponsored by Genesis, Gilda’s Club and the Scott County Family Y. The usual camp fee will be donated by Genesis.

“Camp Genesis is an opportunity for kids to be kids; have a great summer camp experience; and, take a break from the heavy burdens that cancer brings to a family,” says Claudia Robinson, executive director of Gilda’s Club Quad Cities.

“We know from our years of experience working with children affected by cancer that amid the fun, there also will be moments of homesickness. There may be times when these youngsters express their fear and need to work through their anxiety. Sharing their family’s experiences with other kids may bring forth emotions they haven’t yet expressed.

“We always assure parents we are prepared and trained to deal with these emotions and help their children explore their feelings and overcome obstacles in a fun camp environment. Kids have a tendency to feel they are the only ones in the world living with this. The opportunity to join with others experiencing the same thing dramatically reduces their sense of isolation and truly builds a sense of belonging.”

Counselor Anita Shaft is at Camp Genesis during the week. As program manager of Gilda’s Noogieland for the past decade, she has a wonderful ability to connect with youngsters affected by cancer, Robinson says. Shaft works with parents and children to assist them in coping with the dynamics and fears of living with a cancer diagnosis.

Camp Genesis’ goal isn’t to focus on cancer; it’s to provide a fun camp experience so kids can forget their worries. For a short time each day at camp, however, they take a break from camp action and spend time with Shaft, who leads them in a hands-on-activity -- whether it’s an art project to open up self-discovery, or a game to encourage dialogue about difficult cancer topics.

“We help them understand that good things can come out of a negative situation,” Shaft says. “They can explore in a positive way what cancer means to them.”

Because some participants return to Camp Genesis again the next year, the more experienced campers reach out and connect with campers whose families are earlier in the cancer journey.

“It’s great when we see returning campers, who come back with less anxiety and less fear because they better understand cancer treatment,” Shaft says. “They can help their peers who are going through the same emotions they did.”

Mid-week at Camp Genesis, parents are invited to attend a Parent Night at Genesis to hear what their kids have been learning at camp and about the services available at Genesis for cancer patients and their families. Campers also take a tour of the Genesis Cancer Care Institute.

“Camp Genesis has become part of our philosophy to treat the ‘whole’ cancer patient and their families at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute,” says Sally Werner, executive director of the Genesis Cancer Care Institute. “If we can relieve some of the stress and concern a cancer patient may have about children or grandchildren, we are creating a better healing environment for that patient.”

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