Summer camps, week-long retreats, or weekend gatherings can be a 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 some of the U.S. and international camps and retreats offered throughout the year for people diagnosed with cancer and their families. 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. 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 and be sure to get details about the specific camp's offerings and medical support to be sure it fits your or your family's needs.
Angel Foundation’s Camp Angel (Minnesota) provides 3 days of peer support and activities for children and teens ages 6 to 18 with a parent or caregiver who has or has had cancer.
Arizona Camp Sunrise and Sidekicks offers special programs for children ages 3 to 18 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 (North Carolina) offers a free, 1-week camping experience to children ages 6 to 16 with certain 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 Kesem (throughout the United States) offers free summer camps for children ages 6 to 18 with a parent who has or has had cancer. The camps are held on college campuses. Each of the camps is organized and operated by a group of student leaders.
Camp Koru (various locations and virtual programs) helps young adult survivors between the ages of 18 and 39 heal and overcome their fears through outdoor experiences.
Camp Mak-A-Dream (Montana) is a medically supervised, cost-free camp for children, teens, and young adults with cancer. Camp Mak-A-Dream also offers a camp for siblings who have a brother or sister with cancer and hosts retreats for adults with cancer.
Camp Quality USA (throughout the United States) provides year-round programs, experiences, and companionship for children with cancer and their families at no cost. 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 Rainbow Gold (Idaho) offers a weeklong summer camp for kids with cancer, as well as siblings and families. These camps give campers the opportunity to fish, hike, do crafts, and make lasting friendships.
Camp Sunrise and SunSibs (Maryland) is maintained and sponsored by Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center's Division of Pediatric Oncology. Camp Sunrise is a weeklong, overnight summer camp held in early August for children ages 4 to 18 who have or have had cancer. SunSibs is a weekend camp over Memorial Day weekend for children ages 5 to 17 who have had siblings diagnosed with cancer.
Camp Sunshine (Georgia) 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. The summer camp program is for children ages 7 to 18. There are also programs specifically for siblings and parents.
Camp Sunshine (Maine) provides free retreats that incorporate respite, recreation and support, while enabling hope and promoting joy, for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families through the various stages of a child’s illness. On-site medical and psychosocial support is included. Bereavement sessions are also offered for families who have experienced the death of a child from a supported illness.
Cancer Services of New Mexico's Family Cancer Retreat offers free, 3-day educational retreat for adults with cancer or adult survivors and their primary care giver. These retreats take place twice a year and include a combination of educational workshops and informal discussion sessions with others who are coping with some of the same issues.
First Descents (throughout the United States) offers a number of weekend and weeklong outdoor adventure programs for young adults, ages 18-39, 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.
Happiness is Camping (New Jersey) provides children with cancer and their siblings, ages 6-17, with a traditional camp experience for free. Campers climb the high ropes, shoot archery, swim in the pool, and much more.
Harmony Hill (Washington) offers cancer retreats that address the psychological, physical, and spiritual needs of people with cancer. The cancer retreats consists of 3-day retreats, offsite workshops, and a webinar series for people living with cancer, survivors, family members, and caregivers.
The Hole in the Wall Gang (Connecticut and Maryland) 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 1 camp offered by the SeriousFun Children's Network worldwide (see below).
Inheritance of Hope (Florida) Inheritance of Hope’s signature offering is the Legacy Retreat®, an all-expenses-paid experience where families with children under 18 create lifelong memories while receiving the tools to navigate the challenges of a parent's terminal illness.
The Lighthouse Family Retreat (throughout the United States) is a family retreat for children with cancer and their families. The program offers fun, family-centered activities to help participants “feel like a family” again. 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.
Rapahope (Alabama) provides a free weeklong summer camp for children and teenagers 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.
Reel Recovery (throughout the United States) offers fly fishing retreats for men of all ages recovering from all types of cancer.
River Discovery (Idaho) offers river adventures for survivors of childhood, teen, and adult cancers for free. These programs, which last between 1 and 6 days, give survivors the chance to hike, 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.
The Seany Foundation’s Camp Reach for the Stars (California) is a free summer camp for children with cancer and their siblings. It is made up of camping sessions to meet the needs of those dealing with cancer, including includes Resident Oncology Camp for children with cancer, Sibling Camp for the brothers and sisters of kids with cancer, and Day Camp for children with cancer and siblings.
Smith Center for the Healing Arts (Washington, D.C. and virtual) offers retreats and programs for people with cancer and their caregivers. The Center facilitates several weeklong, residential retreats each year.
SeriousFun Children's Network (U.S. and worldwide locations) provides camps across the globe for children with cancer and other serious medical conditions.
Special Love (Virginia) offers free weeklong and weekend camps throughout the year for children with cancer (Camp Fantastic), their siblings (BRASS Camp), and other family events.
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Finding Support and Information
The Healing Power of Being Outdoors for People with Cancer