More than 30 kids from across the state traveled to St. Andrew's School in Middletown this week for Kay's Kamp, a seven-day oncology camp open to children of all ages who have survived or are currently battling cancer.
For kids like 10-year-olds Madison Saunders of Middletown or Justin Wilcox of Hockessin the last couple years, or even months, have been spent in hospital beds, enduring round after round of chemotherapy treatments or measuring out medications. But for one week, these children have traded all of that in for swimming trunks, fishing poles, water balloons and soccer balls. More than 30 kids from across the state traveled to St. Andrew's School in Middletown this week for Kay's Kamp, a seven-day oncology camp open to children of all ages who have survived or are currently battling cancer.
“Seeing the joy on these kids' faces and knowing you made a difference in their lives is like nothing else,” said Kay's Kamp Executive Director Lisa Boyer. “It's hard being a kid with cancer, being a little different.”
Bill and Laurie Warren of Bear founded the camp in August 2009. It was the dream of their daughter, Kaylyn, who passed away in March 2007 after losing her 17-month battle with leukemia at age 18.
Kaylyn's wish was to provide kids with a sense of “normalcy” for a week, Bill told the Middletown Transcript when the camp first got off the ground in 2009. It was then held at the St. Joseph's Center for Community Service in Clayton.
“These kids are just like other kids,” he said.
Last year, the camp moved to the 2,200-acre St. Andrew's campus, which sits on the Noxontown Pond in Middletown. The school has opened up its dormitories and facilities for camp staff and participants to use all week long.
Each year brings a new theme and a host of new activities. This year, campers were able to travel overseas without even leaving the site with the theme “Kay's Kamp goes traveling around the World,” chosen by camper Stephany Medina.
The kids were able to experience several different “ports of call,” including Alaska, Hawaii, Italy, Australia and China.
“I thought this was a great idea,” said third-year camper Jonathan Malmstrom of Smyrna, who battled leukemia.
Jonathan said he enjoys seeing the same group of friends year after year and plans to attend as long as possible. He even has plans to one day become a counselor.
“It's a place I can be myself and have fun,” he said.
Dover's Kimya Clark, diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, is happy at camp. She is currently in remission and looks forward to camp each year.
“I get to meet other people and learn about their lives,” she said.
While some may be fearful to be away from home, other kids enjoy the overnight camping experience.
“I love the food,” said Rose Badner of Felton, who is in remission after battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “We eat something new every day. We even had Alaskan snowcrabs.”
Rose, a second-year camper, said she can no longer imagine a summer without Kay's Kamp.
“I fit in here,” she said. “Kids at school are always asking me lots of questions. Here, we all have something in common. It makes you feel good.”
Boyer said not only are campers having fun, but they're also in good hands. A group of more than 30 medical professionals from Christiana Care, Bayhealth, Alfred I. duPont Hospital and other institutions are on site in what campers call “the Zoo,” which is where they go if they're feeling sick, need chemotherapy treatment or have any other medical issues.
“We would not be here if it weren't for them,” Boyer said. “They're excellent. They really keep the camp running.”