This week, South Carolina children who are battling cancer can enjoy the things kids do in the summer.
About 146 patients at Palmetto Health Richland Children’s Hospital Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, their siblings, and parents will be at Camp Kemo in Honea Path.
The goal is to give kids a typical summer camp experience with their siblings while they’re receiving treatment. They have typical summer camp experiences to choose from like arts and crafts, swimming, zip line, yoga, horseback riding, rock wall climbing, fishing, hiking, paddle boarding and water sliding.
“A wide variety of activities,” said Camp Kemo Program Coordinator Cassandra Shea. “That’s really important for us because when a child is going through treatment for cancer, and even their siblings, they often get a lot of their choices removed. They don’t get to choose what they do every day.”
Shea said the cancer center treats children from as far away from Columbia as Greenwood and Horry County. Between treatment and travel, kids with cancer and their families don’t have time to do the fun things they want to do.
“These families miss out on a lot of things and these kids really miss out on a lot of things,” she said. “So providing a safe environment to bring some of those choices back into their lives and to bring some of that fun back where we can watch them and say, ‘okay, we know you’re not going to get hurt. It’s okay. But go. Go. Be wild. Have fun. Be a kid!'”
Shea said one week at Camp Kemo can transform a patient.
“Camp Kemo can be a game-changer for kids,” she said. “There’s still this amount of timidness to them and then they come to camp and they come back a different person. They are wide open after they have come to camp. It just gives them the freedom to remember that they can be themselves again and they can be a kid.”
Camp Kemo provides programs for pediatric cancer patients and their families throughout the year.
“We have family camps. We have a bereavement camp for kids who have lost siblings. We do family dinners,” Shea said. “We do memorial services. We do teen retreats and this is for all of our oncology and blood disorder kids and their families.”