Alma Morgan is ASK's educational coordinator and director of summer fun. After planning and implementing 4 weeks of ASK Summer Camp, she sat down and reflected on her time spent with our ASK kids. We're grateful for all of our donors who help to make weeks like this possible for our patients, survivors and siblings.
A memory is defined as something we store or remember from the past; a recollection. As the fourth week of the ASK Summer Camp comes to a close, I can say that our patients and siblings will walk away with many happy, exciting memories of summer camp. While many of the children stated their favorite part of camp was making new friends, others shared their love of the various activities: Engineering for Kids, Laughing Yoga, Bricks 4 Kidz, Libbie Mill Library, Printing Studio Two Three, Rigsby Jig Dance, Johnathan Austin the Magician, and the VCU Pet Therapy Program.
As staff and educators at camp, we often think that we teach the lessons. However, after leading the morning discussion each morning at camp, I realized that the children are teaching us the lessons. They are teaching us that everyone needs a safe place to go and socialize in which the participants have shared similar experiences and have an understanding of what they have been through.
We have learned that the sibling may sometimes connect his or her identity to that of the brother or sister who had cancer. As one young man said, “The teachers want me in their class because Susie is my sister.” We had to make sure that this little guy knew that he was wanted in the new class because he was smart, kind, compassionate and a great kid, not because his sister had cancer.
We also learned that children often do not share their worries and concerns because they do not want to upset the parents. One child said, “I do not talk to my parents about what is bothering me because I do not want them to overreact.” I think overreact meant the same as get upset because these children have witnessed what it is like for parents to worry and become upset over serious, critical health issues. Children are protective and want to protect their parents.
Lastly, we learned that these children have many strengths and talents that often are not recognized. As staff, we watch in amazement as one breaks out singing with a voice of an angel, draws a picture that takes your breath away, writes a story that shows so much expression and creativity, or constructs a Lego structure that reminds you of an engineer.
Without a doubt, the four weeks of ASK summer camp will hopefully carry these children into the start of a good school year. When they report to school on the first day and have to share what they did for summer vacation, we hope they will share that they attended a summer camp for cancer survivors and siblings. At ASK Camp, they made new friends, played games, worked puzzles, did crafts, participated in various workshops, and left feeling loved each day. And as they grow older, may these memories of ASK Camp be stored as happy times and stay with them throughout their lives.