BOONE, Iowa -- Cancer doesn't just affect patients. It can take a toll on the entire family. That’s why a camp in Boone is devoted to providing fun for siblings of cancer patients.
It's always fun going away to camp and making new friends, especially when you have something in common with the participants.
From singing to playing and rock climbing, you can tell this camp is a fun place to be. Nine-year-old Codi Storbeck said, “I keep coming back because I love experiencing new things.”
Her twin brother, Chase, added, “I love it when I’m here.”
Older sister Alexis, who is a counselor, said, “Camp really means a lot to our family, and it`s something we cherish.”
Their sister Camryn loved Camp Heart Connection through Children’s Cancer Connection, too. She participated in the oncology camp after she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. She died in April 2014.
“My favorite part about camp? Just getting to hang out with a ton of kids my age that know what we went through, that we all went through. We all went through the same thing,” said Cooper Moffett.
What they went through is cancer. Not as a patient, but as a sibling. “It`s hard to explain, but it`s definitely a journey, too,” he said.
His brother, Carver, who helped at the sibling camp as a Leader in Training, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 15. “I had four other siblings and it was me always getting the attention of everyone, so for them to have a camp just for them is pretty cool.”
He added, “I just feel the sibling camp might be a little more special because they get the light now. They get to be them and not behind their sibling who did have the diagnosis.”
Camp Heart Connection started in 1988. It’s Children’s Cancer Connection’s flagship program. In June, the organization hosts an oncology camp for children with cancer that takes place at the Y-camp in Boone. In August, they do the same activities for the siblings.
Camp Director Conar Reed, who is a childhood cancer survivor, said, “So often all of the focus is shifted onto the oncology patient, as would be expected with something like a cancer diagnosis, but the siblings are kind of the unsung heroes of the family. They`re shipped off to aunts’ and uncles' houses and that sort of thing but play a huge role in keeping the family together.”
More than 250 siblings attended the camp. They enjoyed the variety of activities. Codi said, “We horseback ride, zip line, rock wall, swimming, maybe even just relax in the cabins and clean.”
Her brother Chase added, “It`s fun. You get to make new friends.”
Camp Heart Connection is free for all participants. People can attend from the age of 5 to graduation and many go on to volunteer as counselors.