Camp is a special and memorable experience for any child, but camps for kids with cancer offer a place for them to spend time with other children who understand the struggles they’ve been through, create lifelong friendships and gives them hope when they need it most.
Last week my oldest son and I attended the Rose Buds Campout — a first of its kind event put on by Northwestern Mutual that was held in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl Stadium. It was an evening spent camping out with families who have been affected by childhood cancer.
Northwestern Mutual wants to help families impacted by childhood cancer share in these moments of happiness and strengthen their sense of togetherness so they can create more happy memories and this camp couldn’t have been more perfect. To be able to go camping, meet friends who have gone through similar things, and have fun is something that is often lost during treatment and recovery.
This camp was the ultimate experience and we loved every memorable second of our evening!
Upon check in, each of the families were given a camping kit that included everything they would need for the night: a tent, blanket, lantern, toys and more. It made traveling to the event a lot easier on everyone, especially those that may not have owned a tent.
Once we checked in we got to wander around the Rose Bowl stadium and see what things looked like behind-the-scenes. How many kids do you know get to actually see what the locker rooms look like and get a chance to walk (or run) the field?
Campers and their families were offered a wide variety of activities where we had the chance to meet with each of the families and get to know each other as the kids played. One of our favorite activity areas was the arts and crafts tent that was set up for the kids to create their own superhero capes and masks.
The local fire and police departments came out to spend time with the campers and let them tour their vehicles. It was a hot day, so my son was beyond excited that the firefighters hooked up their hose and gave the kids the coolest run in the sprinklers! Something that will definitely be talked about the years to come.
The police officers even let the kids check out their SWAT vehicle and gear, as well as test out the PA system. The giggles coming through the PA were just heartwarming!
Inside the locker rooms (in the air conditioning), kids were playing corn hole, giant Jenga and Connect 4 and we were also able to string Beads of Courage.
It was so touching being able to see the kids just be kids and letting go of everything they have endured. They weren’t just playing games, they were building friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. My son immediately connected with a 6 year old boy who had recently finished treatment and they spent the rest of the evening playing games together.
Dinner was a delicious spread of bbq, mac and cheese and chicken tenders-no one was disappointed!
After dinner we had a surprise concert by the incredible Us the Duo, who recently appeared on America’s Got Talent. It was the perfect way to take in all that was happening and enjoy some quality time with all the families.
To end the night we played a little football, roasted some yummy s’mores over the fire and as the sun set, grabbed some popcorn and watched The Incredibles on the big screen.
This event was so beneficial for the families who attended, some having only just finished with treatment and needing time to let their kids just be kids with others who have been through the same struggles. Friendships were made, fun was had and everyone was left with memories that will last forever.
Not all children with cancer can attend events like this, and to bring the fun and feeling of camping out to children who are unable to travel due to health status, the Northwestern Mutual Foundation is creating indoor camp experiences in select hospitals nationwide. Camp kits will be delivered to pediatric cancer units and help them bring camp-like experiences to those undergoing inpatient treatment.
Northwestern Mutual sees a future in which children and families can move beyond the fears of cancer and find happiness, because all kids deserve the chance to just be kids.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Northwestern Mutual is giving people the opportunity to bring camp joy to more kids! Simply visit THIS LINK to vote for the iconic venue where you’d most want to camp out. For every 25,000 votes cast July 6-23, Northwestern Mutual will give a $5,000 grant and an indoor camp experience to a pediatric cancer unit to help them bring camp-like activities to their patients.
This article has been written in partnership with Northwestern Mutual.