Camp on the Go for Houston’s young cancer patients

MD Anderson's youngest patients are having fun this summer with “Camp on the Go”.

MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital normally offers four camps for different age groups during the summer. This year, Camp on the Go, a new virtual camp has replaced Camp Star Trails, Camp AOK, and Camp for All 2 U to ensure young patients and siblings are still able to participate. Camp H-Town, sponsored by Four Seasons Houston Hotel, recently took their camp online.

The children get to do everything from create art, to dance and sing through their virtual camp.

We got to talk to 11-year old Lara Amer and her 6-year old brother, Zayne, about it. "It was an amazing experience to be able to even do the camp. The Camp on the Go staff and all of the people who made it possible, all the counselors, it was awesome because they helped us when we needed help, even though we weren't face-to-face, we are able to do so many fun activities! We are able to make new friends, we are able to type in the chat button and speak to each other, even though we weren't able to do it in real life, and it was an amazing experience. I loved it and I'm so glad we were able to do it," smiles Lara.

Zayne agrees. He says at first, he was sad when he found out in-person camp had to be canceled because of the pandemic, but he’s thankful for the virtual version. "I actually really liked it, because we got to do a lot of fun activities," says Zayne.

Lara and Zayne joined more than 60 other patients and their siblings from MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital. They all got special deliveries before camp started.

"We were really excited to see that our parents really bought into Camp on the Go - not only an opportunity for the kids, but it was a time for them to relax, and know their children were well taken care of in a safe environment," explains Tomeka Gamble, the Program Manager for Camps and Special Events at MD Anderson.

They even got to have a talent show and share their skills with others. Lara says it was meaningful to connect with other young cancer fighters.

"I was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma when I was eight years old, so at the beginning of the year of 2018. My treatment was six months long and I was able to finish up before being able to go to camp. So camp has been really big, because I was able to finish right before and it, everybody welcome me so well, and it was an awesome experience," states Lara.

She also explained how medical workers at the cancer center encouraged her to try art. "Before, I was bored, I didn't really have anything to do, I couldn't really see my friends, nobody was really able to visit me. I was really frustrated all the time, but then I was able to have the art, and it really calmed me down, they took me to another area, made me relax and feel better when I was not feeling good, maybe it would help almost the pain go away because I had something to busy my mind with," explains Lara. She was glad art was also included in their Camp on the Go.

Zayne says there's one thing he really liked during camp. "We got to do virtual s'mores, that was really fun," he laughs. Not completely virtual, they did get to make and eat them: a sweet ending to camp and cancer. "I'm all good now, I don't have any cancer, so I'm healthy! YEAH," smiles Lara. We were happy to clap about that!

Camp organizers at MD Anderson say they learned a lot during the pandemic and will now continue the virtual experience from now on. At least once a year, they'll hold a "Camp on the Go" for patients who can't attend camp in person.

For more information, you can visit their website here.