Each year the Wibbeler kids — Brenden, 12; Tyler, 10; and Emma, 8 — tell their dad Nathan they can’t wait for their week at summer camp.
“They love swimming every day and the craft projects, like playing a recorder made out of PVC pipe,” Nathan says.
But fun is just part of what’s offered by Camp Hope, a program for kids ages 6 to 12 whose family member or loved one is living with cancer. This free Edward Cancer Center program has served about 400 campers since its start 10 years ago.
It’s also been 10 years since Nathan was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He had a kidney removed, but the cancer spread to his lungs. He’s since gone to several hospitals and received treatment that varied widely in effectiveness and side effects. A few years, ago Wibbeler moved to Woodridge, and he now receives regular infusion therapy at the Edward Cancer Center.
“The ups and downs have been rough on the whole family,” he says. “Sometimes I’m doing great, and other times I can’t do anything. Camp Hope has been a great gift to the kids. It gives them a break from what I’m going through day to day.”
There are two sessions of Camp Hope this summer: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, June 16 through 20 and Aug. 4 through 8, both at the Edward Health & Fitness Center, 6600 S. Route 53 in Woodridge. The camp is free — tuition for children who attend Camp Hope is paid for through donations to the Edward Foundation. Child care is available, at no cost, before and after camp from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.
For much of the day, the kids join the campers of Kamp Fit-to-Go, an annual summer camp program offered by Edward Health & Fitness Centers. This portion of the camp includes swimming, organized gym games, dance and gymnastics, tae kwon do, imagination time and a field trip.
The Camp Hope breakout sessions feature arts and crafts, small group discussions led by clinical social workers from the Edward Cancer Center, music therapy and more.
“Each breakout activity is about having fun, but also helping the kids find ways to cope with a difficult situation,” says Linda Conlin, a social worker with the Edward Cancer Center. “The arts and crafts, music therapy and storytelling get them expressing their emotions. The yoga and meditation sessions give them tools for dealing with anxiety. And in the group discussion, they learn tips for talking about their concerns with family members. They become more confident about asking questions. It’s powerful for them to know there are other kids going through similar experiences in their families.”
Wibbeler was laid off from his job as a body shop estimator a few years ago. He’s now happy to serve as an assistant coach for his son’s baseball team.
“My situation and all the last-minute changes disrupted the kids’ lives quite a bit,” he says. “It was hard for them to be involved in a lot of activities. But when they come home from Camp Hope, they’re giddy and full of stories. As a father that means a lot to me.”
The Camp Hope tuitions from the Edward Foundation come from funds raised by the annual Hoops for Healing Basketball Tournament. Players from Naperville North and Oswego high schools play in the tournament, and give mini-basketball camps during both camp sessions.
For more information or to register for Camp Hope, call 630-527-6363.
Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital.Tags: Edward Hospital