Camp No Worries brings virtual experience to camper’s doorsteps

Administrators come up with ways to engage cancer patients.

A typical in-person camp session has gone virtual with counselors from Camp No Worries connecting with families via Zoom video conferencing for campfire songs, crafts and s’mores. Goods are packaged and delivered to families in the pictured boxes to ensure campers enjoy the activities at home during the week of June 21 (Camp No Worries/ Special to The Sun).

Life in 2020 has been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic, with closed schools, cancelled vacations and losses of income, among other issues. But Camp No Worries in Tabernacle stayed true to its name, not by bringing kids to camp by but bringing camp to kids.

Now in its 26th year, the camp is for off of Powell Place Road children fighting cancer and their siblings to step away from life for a week. Because of the pandemic, the camp’s leadership and board of directors “virtualized”  this year’s experience by literally bringing the camp to kids’ doorsteps.

The weeklong virtual experience started June 21 with a Camp in a Box delivery to campers’ homes. Enclosed were s’mores kits, homemade games, arts and craft materials, supplies for a family game night and an inspirational message: “The sun and the sand, now you have camp in your hands!”

Campers did not complete activities alone. Counselors hosted Zoom video sessions with the children and families to promote a camp-like atmosphere.

“It was fun having cabin time on a zoom call,” Counselor Natalie Richardson said. “We played games and songs that are reminiscent of camp and there are different ways of doing them. We played land sports with the kids, where we’d throw an imaginary ball, kids would catch them, some would drop it and the kids would laugh, and it shows the creativity in the group and people involved.”

Unlike in years past, parents got to see online what happens at Camp No Worries  Richardson said that created an elevated appreciation of the camp’s mission: building relationships, resilience, hope and a stronger community.

This year’s camp numbered 84 kids, 41 families and 50 staff, in addition to the behind-the-scenes work from the camp’s board of directors and an advisory board of 13 members, according to a press release.

Richardson admitted a lack of technology experience, but commended administrators for the progress made to create a fluid online experience. A cancer survivor herself, Richardson recalled her personal experience at  Camp No Worries in the 1990s as enjoyable to the last day.

“I had just finished treatment the first year I went,” she recalled. “I finished chemo and my hair was very short. There were only a handful of campers  and it was a cool experience to get out there in the woods.

“You have this common bond of camp, but you got to hang out in the woods and eat s’mores and be silly.”

Richardson engaged campers in virtual activities like painting rocks; singing along with campers; and engaging in an un-tensil night, eating food with everything but a standard fork, spoon and knife.

“Being virtual has given the camp and leadership a tool box to reach out to kids who can’t come,” she noted. “We’ve had kids who got sick and couldn’t come and it provides some opportunities for what could be provided.”

“We didn’t want campers to miss out on this experience due to COVID-19, so we put our heads together and came up with the virtual solution,” camp President and Executive Director Kasey Massa said in a press release. “We hope this experience shows our campers what it means to keep fighting and how we are surviving and supporting together, no matter what the world brings.”

To learn about Camp No Worries or to volunteer, visit CampNoWorries.org.