Summer camps, week-long retreats, or weekend gatherings can be a wonderful way for children, adults, and families to come together to experience new adventures, find support, and learn something new about themselves. The following list highlights just some of the numerous national and international camps and retreats offered throughout the year. Often, these programs cost campers and their families very little, if anything. Talk with an oncology nurse or social worker to learn more about camps, support groups, and other programs that help people affected by cancer connect with each other.
Most camps offer full-time care for children with special needs, and some have doctors and nurses on staff to provide medical care to campers when necessary. However, if you or family members are considering attending a local or distant camp or retreat, talk with your doctor first.
American Cancer Society (ACS), throughout the United States
ACS sponsors a number of free camps for children with cancer, including Camp Hope in Rhode Island and Camp Goodtimes East in Idaho. In the past, other camps, such as Camp Goodtimes West on Vashon Island in Puget Sound and Camp Adventure in New York, have also been available. Contact your local ACS to find out about the current programs in your area.
The Angel Foundation offers a free three-day camp for children ages 5 to 18 who have a parent with cancer. The Angel Foundation offers other education and support programs for the entire family throughout the year.
Established as the first camp in Arizona for children with cancer, Arizona Camp Sunrise offers special programs for children who have or have had cancer. The Sidekicks program is specifically for the siblings of children with cancer. Arizona Camp Sunrise offers weeklong, residential summer camps, day camps, weekend retreats, teen trips, and other year-round special events.
Camp Carefree offers a free, one-week camping experience to children with chronic illnesses, including cancer. They also run camps for siblings of chronically ill children, as well as a week for children with a sick parent.
Camp Fantastic is a weeklong camp for children ages 7 to 17 who have received cancer-specific treatment within the past three years. Camp Fantastic provides classes, recreation, themed adventures, campfires, and other activities and a full staff of medical caregivers.
Considered the premier program of the Carol Jean Cancer Foundation, Camp Friendship is a weeklong residential camp for children ages 7 to 17 with cancer. The Carol Jean Cancer Foundation also offers programs for children who have a parent with cancer and siblings of children with cancer. The Teens “N” Twenties (T”N”T) program is for older teens and young adults, ages 18 to 25, touched by cancer and includes a travel camp, weekend programs, and support activities.
Organized by college students, Camp Kesem is a weeklong, sleep-away summer camp for children ages 6 to 16 with a parent who has or has had cancer. The camps are held on college campuses throughout the United States. Each of the camps is organized and operated by a group of student leaders.
Camp Mak-A-Dream is operated by Children's Oncology Camp Foundation. It is a medically supervised, cost-free camp for children (ages 6 to 14), teens (ages 15 to 18), and young adults (ages 18 to 40) with cancer. Camp Mak-A-Dream also offers a camp for siblings ages 6 to 17 who have a brother or sister with cancer and hosts retreats for adults with cancer.
Camp Quality offers a free summer camp and year-round support programs for children with cancer. Currently, there are 15 camps established in 11 states. The camps offer exciting activities, a chance to develop new friendships, and opportunities to help children develop courage and emotional strength. Some camps also offer these opportunities to siblings.
Camp Rap-A-Hope is a weeklong summer camp for children and teenagers, ages 7 to 17, who have or have had cancer. The camp is free and provides opportunities for swimming, kayaking, horseback riding, arts and crafts, and other fun activities.
Maintained and sponsored by Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center's Division of Pediatric Oncology, Camp Sunrise is a weeklong summer camp for children who have been diagnosed with or have survived cancer. The camp is divided into two parts. The day camp offers children ages 4 to 5 with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the camping experience without having to spend the night away from their families. The residential camp is for campers ages 6 to 18 and provides a traditional overnight camping experience.
Camp Sunshine offers a variety of free programs throughout the year that give children with cancer who live in or are treated in the state of Georgia the opportunity to enjoy activities like swimming, horseback riding, and arts and crafts and make new friends. There are also programs specifically for siblings and parents.
Family Cancer Retreat is a free, three-day educational retreat for adults with cancer or adult survivors and their primary care giver. The event, which occurs twice a year, includes a combination of educational workshops and informal discussion sessions with others who are coping with some of the same issues.
First Descents offers a number of weekend and weeklong outdoor adventure programs for young adults with cancer and young adult cancer survivors. First Descents' multi-day adventure programs are centered on whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, or surfing and are free of cost to all first-time participants.
Harmony Hill, located on the south shore of the Olympic Peninsula's Hood Canal, offers a Cancer Program that address the psychological, physical, and spiritual needs of people with cancer. The Cancer Program consists of three-day retreats, offsite workshops, and a webinar series for people living with cancer, survivors, family members, and caregivers.
The Hole in the Wall Gang is a camp founded by Paul Newman in 1988 that offers summer programs, family weekend programs, and other opportunities for seriously ill children and their families throughout the Northeast, free of charge. The Hole in the Wall Gang is just one camp offered by the SeriousFun Children's Network.
Kokolulu Cancer Retreats offer group and personal retreats for adults with cancer focusing on integrative medicine and mind, body, and spirit connections.
The Lighthouse is a weeklong seaside family retreat for children with cancer. The program provides a place of hope and renewal to families facing the challenge of cancer and allows them to escape for a week of fun and rejuvenation. Some highlights of the program are family-centered beach games, arts and crafts, parent support groups, and evening activities that include a special night out for the parents.
Reel Recovery is a fly fishing retreat for men of all ages recovering from all types of cancer. It provides an opportunity to receive professional fly fishing instruction, share stories, and make friends.
River Discovery offers river adventures for survivors of childhood, teen, and adult cancers for free. These programs, which last between one and six days, give survivors the chance to kike, swim, raft, paddle board, and kayak while learning about natural history, canyon history, and camping skills. Activities can be customized to accommodate any fitness level and no experience is required.
Smith Farm Center offers retreats and programs for people with cancer and their caregivers. The Center facilitates several weeklong, residential retreats each year in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.