For many kids (and kids at heart), summer camps are one of the best parts of summer and are often a normal part of childhood. As most families who have experienced cancer can attest, normalcy during cancer treatment is extremely important. However, when a cancer diagnosis affects a child or parent in the family, summer camp might not be an option due to a child’s medical needs or the lack of extra finances to pay for traditional summer camps. Fortunately, there are many summer camps for cancer support specifically designed for children with cancer, siblings, or even the whole family. The camp experience can provide positive benefits that will last long after summer ends. Camp attendance may help lessen feelings of anxiety, depression, or loneliness and increase self-esteem, body positivity, and coping abilities.
Camps and retreats such as the resources listed here are specially curated to provide a fun activities away from the hospital and appointments, while allowing those in attendance to meet other patients, survivors, or family members, and learn that they are not alone. Camps will often have full-time care for campers, with most of the overnight camps offering on-site medical facilities staffed with oncology providers who can administer chemo or other medical care, if necessary. Please note that if you are on active treatment for cancer, be sure to discuss your desire to attend a camp or retreat with your oncologist.
Tennessee Summer Camps for Cancer Support
Summer Fun 4 Kids Camp – Knoxville, TN
- Phone: 865-546-4661
- Email: info@cancersupportET.org
- Website: Cancer Support Community
- Details: A free 4-day camp full of activities for school-age children who have a loved one with cancer. Pre-registration is required but camp is free.
Camp Kesem – Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
- Website: Camp Kesem
- Details: Camp Kesem operates over 100 free summer camps in 40 states for children ages 6-18 who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer. To register a camper for the TN chapter or to find out more information, click on the website above. You can also search for another state’s program using their Find A Chapter tool.
Camp Horizon – Brentwood, TN (Greater Nashville Area)
- Phone: 615-952-0039
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: Camp Horizon
- Details: A week-long camp for kids diagnosed with or who have had cancer, as well as a separate week of camp for their siblings. Both camps accept kids ages 6-17 and are offered free of charge to children with cancer and their siblings. Apply at the website above.
Noogie Wonderland – Gilda’s Club, Nashville, TN
- Phone: 615-329-1124
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: Gilda’s Club of Middle Tennessee
- Details: Offered to children ages 5-12 as a free day camp in the winter and summer breaks from school, Camp Noogie provides fun themes, specialized workshops and lots of laughter for children who have a loved one living with cancer, have a diagnosis of cancer themselves or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Snacks are provided. There is no fee for Camp Noogie but registration is required, as there is limited space for events. Please visit their Program Calendar for specific dates.
Listings of Summer Camps Outside of Tennessee
There are many summer camps for cancer support throughout the U.S. that offer opportunities in the summer and throughout the year. If you are interested in camps outside of TN check out the following resources:
Camp Mak-A-Dream – Gold Creek, Montana
- Phone: (406) 549-5987
- Website: Camp Mak-A-Dream
- Details: Camp Mak-A-Dream offers multiple camps throughout the year to children, adults, and siblings affected by a cancer diagnosis. Camps are divided up by age and diagnosis, with separate sessions for siblings, adult women, and even a week for the whole family to attend camp together. Camp is free, and some scholarships are available to help cover travel costs to Montana. For more information, check out the website above or call to speak with a staff member
Summer Camps and Retreats for Kids at Heart
If you’re an adult who would like to join in on the fun and have an amazing experience with fellow cancer survivors or relax during a family retreat, the following options might be just what you’re looking for. Remember that you’ll need clearance from your oncologist prior to attending one of these events, but just because you’re on treatment doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to join in on the fun.
Little Pink Houses of Hope
- Phone: 336-213-4733
- Website: Little Pink Houses of Hope
- Details: The Little Pink House of Hope offers beach retreats throughout the year to breast cancer patients and their families. retreat is designed to help families relax, reconnect, and rejuvenate during the cancer journey. Retreats are free, however travel to and from the retreat is the responsibility of the family. Check their website for dates and to apply.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: First Descents
- Details: First Descents offers programs in various locations across the country to give young adult cancer survivors ages 18-39 experiences in outdoor activities such as rock climbing, surfing, or kayaking. All programs are offered free of charge and are open to individuals of all fitness and skill levels.
In addition to the resources featured above, the following websites have round-ups of camps for kids with cancer and include listings for family retreats, sibling camps and other opportunities for adult cancer patients and survivors.
NeedyMeds.org: Retreats, Camps & Recreational Programs for childhood cancer
More information on the benefits of camp for cancer patients, survivors, and family members can be found here: Children with Cancer: Positive Benefits of Camp