Covid19 vs. Camp - Coronovirus forces change in format but the spirit of Camp Happy Times will not be diminished
Campers will hike the Virtual Trail in 2020
The Valerie Fund's summer program for children with cancer and young cancer survivors will look different this year but commitment is to stay positive and stay connected
This summer, Camp Happy Times, like the majority of camps around the country, will become a place that engages kids cerebrally and looks to online opportunities for growth and friendship building. The decision to move to a total online camping experience was shaped by the new operating parameters of state and local governments and camp association guidelines. Family opinion also weighed in, as a recent poll conducted by Slate Magazine found that more than 80% of parents said they would not feel comfortable sending their kids to sleep away camp this summer. It became obvious, though nonetheless heartbreaking, that it would be impossible to operate camp in the traditional way while practicing safe social distancing.
From the very first campfire in 1983, The Valerie Fund's one-week overnight summer camp experience has always been a time to let all the pain and fear go and just enjoy being young. Camp Happy Times is a place where illness is a common bond but it doesn't always need to be part of the conversation because campers and many counselors can honestly say to each other, "I know how you feel." It is a place that despite medical challenges, kids are doing all the things that their healthy peers are doing. In the words of Millie Finkel, Camp Director Emeritus, "I can't cure them but I can give the campers one hell of a week."
Children who have or have had cancer have already suffered in so many ways and the daunting challenge this year is to create a virtual experience that does not disappoint and to present worthwhile online options that give parents a break. And while there is no replacement for playing outside, to create a virtual experience that helps campers stay connected, mindful of the social isolation many are currently grappling with.
Fortunately, the Camp Happy Times staff is known for the meticulous care they put into planning daily programing. The overall camp theme is highly anticipated each year. From Disney to the Olympics, an Around the World Tour to the Magic of Harry Potter, campers are never disappointed. This year, the Camp Happy Times' theme is "Always Connected" and will take place from Monday, August 17th through Friday, August 21st. For the first time, siblings of current or former cancer patients as well as hematology patients will be permitted to participate. The camp is open to pediatric oncology and hematology cases treated at The Valerie Fund and elsewhere.
All live and pre-recorded sessions will be run by current Camp Happy Times staff and counselors using online digital platforms like Zoom. Children will receive in advance of the program, CHT Camper Kits, hands on materials that will interface with virtual sessions. The "Staying Connected" schedule will include familiar camp activities beginning with meeting up at the morning flagpole, arts & crafts, cooking classes, and the most popular of camp experiences - campfires, the dance and talent show. The virtual platform will also feature yoga, makeup tutorials, video making, fashion shows, scavenger hunts and more!
"Our virtual program," says Camp Director Matt Ruttler, "will strive to bring all of the things we hold so dear in a new and exciting fashion to all our camp family!" The war on the Coronavirus will not also extinguish the cherished memories kids come away with after a week at Camp Happy Times. Ruttler says, "Camp is not a place. It is the people, the feelings, the love and the family that CHT provides. That is Camp!"
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For more information or to make a donation, please visit www.thevaleriefund.org or contact Camp Happy Times Director Matt Ruttler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE VALERIE FUND: After their nine-year-old daughter Valerie succumbed to cancer, Sue and Ed Goldstein were determined that no family should have to travel great distances to receive superior medical care. Along with a group of close friends, they began fundraising efforts from their living room---tireless work that would lead to the 1977 opening of New Jersey's first pediatric oncology facility at Summit Overlook's Hospital. More than forty years later, The Valerie Fund's mission remains that of supporting comprehensive health care for children battling cancer and blood disorders. For more information, please contact Bunny Flanders, Director of Marketing and Communications at email@example.com