Kids Kamp: A Transforming Experience
Kids Kamp 2012 was the first event I attended as a student evaluator for the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI), a program of the University of Minnesota that is working with Angel Foundation to measure and assess the impact of the many programs Angel Foundation offers to families as they navigate the cancer experience. Kids Kamp is Angel Foundation’s annual three-day camp for children 5-18 who have a parent with cancer. This retreat gives campers the opportunity to “just be kids”.
“What inspires you?” was the theme of Kids Kamp this year, held August 7-9.
Words cannot explain the transformations I witnessed between the first day, when all of the kids were a bit apprehensive and perhaps dreading coming to camp, to the last day, when they sat close to new friends and sent their hopes, worries and wishes up to the universe.
The primary goals of Kids Kamp are to 1) increase self efficacy in children with parents who have cancer, 2) decrease the feelings of isolation for children of parents with cancer and 3) most important, to have FUN! Many of the parents and teen mentors expressed that the first time a child comes to camp they sometimes come kicking and screaming, worried that the next three days of their lives will be filled with support groups and talks about cancer. However, by the end of the three days they often do not want to leave and wish they had more time to finish their art projects, hang out with new friends and play games.
Clearly, Kids Kamp accomplishes much more than its main goals. In talking with parents, volunteers and kids I learned three things about Kids Kamp:
- Kids Kamp is a place where you can just be a kid
- Kids Kamp is a place where you make lifelong friendships
- Kids Kamp is a place where everyone understands what you are going through
During the next few weeks my colleague, Chris Pleasants and I will be compiling information from our notes, meetings with volunteers and teen mentors, and surveys from kids and parents to provide tangible data to support the impact and transformations made at Kids Kamp every year.
We would like to especially thank all of the volunteers, staff and teen mentors for their willingness to meet with us and to all of the kids and families for their help in understanding how their lives have been touched by Angel Foundation.
University of Minnesota