For many summer camp is a break from the classroom, home and idle days with nothing to do. For those who take part in Camp Wapiyapi, summer camp is a break from the hospital and the doctor’s office.
Camp Wapiyapi provides kids facing cancer with the chance to push pause on the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis by giving them a unique camp experience they may not find at a traditional residential camp.
Located in Woodland Park, Camp Wapiyapi begins in June at Quaker Ridge Camp and Conference Center. The camp spans 440 total acres of the Pike National Forest with views of Pikes Peak.
Some of the outdoor adventures available to campers are the popular zip line, a high ropes course, low ropes, archery, horseback riding, an outdoor heated pool, and more.
“I loved the high ropes course,” said one of the campers at Wapiyapi in a testimonial. “It was really scary at first, but my team cheered me on. My 5th grade class is doing a high ropes course and my teacher said I get to be a coach since I have done it before. I can help my class build confidence and work as a team the way Camp Wapiyapi helped me, which is pretty cool.”
The idea behind Wapiyapi was to give kids with cancer a chance to do something that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to do, enjoy a fully-active supper camp experience.
“They get to have all the amazing experiences kids who haven’t faced cancer get to have while doing it in a safe, fun and supportive environment,” Camp Wapiyapi states. “For hundreds of families facing childhood cancer, Camp Wapiyapi gives them hope. We offer parents a rare chance to leave their child in the care of others and feel secure that not only will their child’s medical needs be met, but they will also enjoy the typical childhood experience of summer camp.”
One of the benefits of the camp is its one-to-one camper to counselor (or companion) ratio. Furthermore, many of those companions are cancer survivors themselves, allowing them the ability to provide insight and empathy to the challenges the campers face. In addition to the child diagnosed with cancer, the camp also serves the child’s brothers and sisters.
“When I saw the giant banner welcoming us to Camp Wapiyapi, I begged my parent to turn around. I had no interest in attending a camp centered around disease, let alone with my brother in tow,” said one sibling camper, about her lukewarm, initial reaction to the camp. “But I discovered a camp filled with love, support, and most importantly, endless fun.”
The program is designed for children ages 6-17 and tailored to both the patient and their siblings. Volunteers play a huge role in the camp as nearly 300 individuals volunteer each year to help the camp meet the one-to-one counselor to camper ratio. The camp is also staffed with volunteer physicians and nurses who also are able to take advantage of a unique opportunity to see kids with cancer in an outdoor environment far from a waiting room or a hospital bed.
“Camp isn’t just a playground or a week for parents to take a break, but also it is a life-changing experience for each and every person involved in it,” said Sarah, one of Wapiyapi’s volunteer counselors. “This camp lets these children just be kids for once. It’s a place where cancer isn’t a bad word and we can share how it affects us.”
For more information on Camp Wapiyapi including info on registration or donations, visit www.campwapiyapi.org.