SAN DIEGO — When a non-profit organization that helps kids with cancer was faced with canceling its popular summer camps, the volunteers knew they had to get creative. In this Zevely Zone, I discovered the wonder of Camp in a Box.
Oncology And Kids (OAK) announced that its flagship program, Camp Reach for the Sky, will be moving online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means instead of an outdoor retreat, 12-year-old Angel Caloca is staying home. I met Angel and his family at Morley Field where I asked him,"Were you disappointed when you heard there wasn't going to be a camp this summer?"
Without missing a beat, Angel told me, "Yes."
Angel is a cancer survivor. His leukemia has been in remission for nine years.
"He makes me proud everyday. You know, it was a tough journey," said his mother Lauricia.
Camp Reach for the Sky has brought joy to the pediatric cancer community since 1983. Its free programs offer peer support for kids in treatment and remission, as well as their siblings.
The camp has served as a summertime escape for kids fighting cancer, but not this year. The non-profit organization could have just given up, but that was not an option.
"No, I mean at the end of the day, cancer doesn't stop, especially for these kids they are just looking for a way to feel like themselves again," said Bernard Mauricia, CEO of Oncology And Kids.
Bernard said even when a child is very sick, they still want to smile.
"At the end of the day, a kid just wants to be a kid. That's it. It's not rocket science. They just want to feel like themselves. They just want to be surrounded by their friends and family," said Bernard.
This year, hundreds of children will enjoy Camp in a Box mailed to their homes to enjoy with a week long virtual camp. That box is stuffed with goodies. We asked Angel to dig in.
"Whoa, a shirt. You got to have a camp shirt right?," said his mom. "What? We got some snacks."
Angel's mother, Lauricia, said a week-long virtual camp means everything.
"This provides a connection, you know. It gives the kids some normalcy, arts and crafts, activities and a quilt," said Lauricia.
Oncology And Kids knows that cancer is expensive for parents, which is why the survivors, the patients and all of their siblings get Camp in a Box for free. Angel won't be jumping into a camp pool this summer. Instead, he'll be swimming in gifts.
"I got a brand new hat," said Angel. "I got a diary. We got a Rubik's Cube [and] more glasses. Now you see why we love camp."
Bernard smiled and added, "We can't stop programs like this. It's too important."
The virtual camps will be held the weeks of July 5 - July 11 and July 19 - July 25. OAK is looking for donations and Amazon Wish List items to help fund and provide attending campers a new type of fun experience this year. You purchase items from the wish list.