Forty-seven children who have battled cancer, aged four to 17, spent a week at Lake Ann Camp, located 13 miles west of downtown Traverse City, from Aug. 11 to Aug. 18.
Camp Quality Michigan, a year-round support program for families who have a child fighting cancer, hosted the campers at no cost. The organization currently serves 150 families in the state of Michigan, said Kristyn Balog, executive director of Camp Quality Michigan. Camp Quality Michigan was founded as the first of 16 Camp Quality USA chapters that are located in 11 states, she said, adding that 2013 marks Camp Quality Michigan’s 26th year of service.
“The best part is probably seeing all my friends again and just escaping reality really,” said Jon, a 16-year-old camper who has attended Camp Quality Michigan summer camp for the past 12 years.
(WATCH: An August afternoon at camp.)
Camp activities included water sports, rock climbing, laser tag and a talent show. Altogether, 115 volunteers facilitated the weeklong camp session at Lake Ann Camp, including four healthcare staff that provided 24-hour medical services, Balog said. Each camper was paired up with a companion for one-on-one support throughout the week.
“Families get a break for sending their kids here,” said Matt Hartman, a 23-year-old companion who attended a former camper’s high school graduation party a few weeks before arriving at camp. “The kids get a break from the treatments aside from taking meds, maybe a couple times a day.”
(LISTEN: Megan Maiani, Camp Quality Michigan healthcare coordinator, talks about giving children medications for their cancer treatments at the camp’s Nurses Station.)
In addition to offering weeklong summer camp sessions on Beaver Island and in Fenton, Mich., Camp Quality Michigan organizes weekend activities, reunion dinners and fundraising events throughout the year, Balog said, noting that the nonprofit is run by hundreds of volunteers.
“Camp Quality is an organization designed to help kids with cancer be kids again,” said Kim Ostrom, Camp Quality Michigan North Camp director. “Our summer camps provide them with that happiness. It gives them the chance to do things that they don’t get to do at home. It gives them a sense of community with other kids, companions and staff members that know a little bit about what they’re going through.”
—By Catie L’Heureux