BIG BAY – Camp Quality USA, a camp program for pediatric patients with cancer and blood disorders, makes its first way to the Upper Peninsula this summer.
The camp will take place virtually from July 12-16 with a personal kickoff event on June 19 at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay. The program is offered free of charge to the families, with Camp Quality funded through fundraising and generous donors.
The UP camp program was made possible thanks to a partnership between Camp Quality Michigan, the UP Lions Clubs and Bay Cliff.
Camp Quality was founded in 1983 in Sydney, Australia, and expanded to the United States in 1986 with the first camp in Missouri.
Today there are 21 Camp Quality programs in the US. Camp Quality Michigan was the second camp started in the US in 1987 and was held in Boyne City. Bay Cliff will be Michigan’s third Camp Quality location, with its “North” and “South” camp programs taking place downstate in Luther and Fenton.
Jean McDonough, Executive Director of Camp Quality Michigan, said a UP Camp Quality has been underway for a number of years.
“Camp Quality decided to come for a number of reasons,” she said. “We connected with the Lions clubs in the UP a few years ago during an activity in Traverse City. We discovered the UP and Bay Cliff. I started holding meetings with the UP Lions Clubs because childhood cancer was one of their new initiatives. They really wanted to be more involved with children with cancer. We went there and gave a presentation to the Lions clubs about a year and a half ago, and they made the commitment on the spot. ”
Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the planning phase, which is why the organizers opted for a virtual camp week this year, along with the personal, socially detached kickoff event in June, if things were to stay on track.
“We started our meetings, we were going to start and then COVID hit,” McDonough said. ‘Everything has been delayed a bit. We are having a hard time because of COVID and are trying to coordinate things. This year we were hoping to go back to an on-site camp where we would have families, but as COVID isn’t really giving in at this point, we’re going to try and have a meet-and-greet on site following COVID protocols at 19 June, prior to the camp (week) if COVID allows it. If it doesn’t, the virtual camp will continue regardless. “
The UP Lions Clubs have identified more than two dozen families fighting childhood cancer. That is why it was important to bring a camp program to the region.
“We know there are kids up there,” McDonough said. “So far the UP Lions Clubs have identified 29 families (fight against cancer). We are also opening the camp to children in eastern Wisconsin. One or two of the hospitals where they treat UP kids are in eastern Wisconsin. We’ve been in contact with them (the hospitals) and they’re pretty excited too. “
Organizers also said choosing a camp site was one of the easiest things to do in the planning phase.
“Bay Cliff is one of the most beautiful health care camps I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to Michigan a lot,” McDonough said. “It is definitely a fun facility and we are delighted to be here with these children.”
Whether this year’s camp is a success or not, McDonough said Camp Quality is here for the long haul.
“Sadly, cancer has become indispensable,” she said. “Not a lot of research and development goes into it because there is only a small fraction of diagnoses in the world, mostly in the US. It is difficult because there are no new drugs on the market. They are making progress in the treatment of leukemia, but for brain cancers or skin cancer or bone cancer, there are no treatments or drugs. We know childhood cancer isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and as long as it’s here, Camp Quality will be too.
“We are here to organize activities for these families because they are under a lot of pressure. Taking care of their children can be a financial disaster for the families. We want to make their cancer road journey just a little more enjoyable, if you like. Giving them something to look forward to except treatment and things like that.
“That’s what we do. We are delighted to be working with Bay Cliff. The Lions (clubs) have supported financially and reached out to families. We have built a very good relationship between these three organizations to get this going. ”
This year’s camp theme is “Thrive”, where children are taken on an adventure with daily themes of creativity, humor, confidence, gratitude and zest for life through the use of imagination, fun and enthusiasm.
Each child is provided with a backpack filled with camp week goodies and the virtual camp program is held throughout the week via Zoom and Flipgrid platforms.
The Bay Cliff Personal Kick-Off Event follows all national and national COVID-19 guidelines and gives campers, siblings and families the opportunity to meet Camp Quality staff, other campers, and tour the facility where future camp programs will be held when the pandemic is under control.
If you are part of a family fighting childhood cancer and would like to register your child and their siblings, please register at www.campqualityusa.org/mi/ by clicking the “Thrive” logo. For more information, call the Camp Quality Michigan office at 231-582-2471.
“They can contact our office if they have specific questions,” McDonough said. “We are happy to answer any questions at any time. We just want these kids to try. We know they are ‘virtually activated’, but if we can get them to jump in and give it a try, they can see how exciting and fun Camp Quality is. It’s time for these kids to be around other kids who are going through the same things as them. It’s time to share their concerns, concerns, thoughts and support through an organization that focuses not on cancer, but on the emotional and social well-being of children. We want to take care of those families and keep them happy. “
To learn more about Camp Quality’s national efforts, visit www.campqualityusa.org.
For more information about the UP Lions Clubs and its childhood cancer initiative, visit www.uplionsserve.org.
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