Summer camp is a right of passage for many children2


Camp is a time where children can explore new environments, develop new skills, make new friends, and create lasting memories. But when there is a cancer diagnosis in the family, a number of barriers emerge that can prevent families from sending their kids to camp.

Children with a cancer diagnosis in their household experience the same fear, anxiety, and grief that adults would, but with much less control and developed skills for coping. Common challenges facing these families are the unexpected costs of cancer, the inflexibility of medical scheduling, and not be able to anticipate to what level your health may be limited. Children feel this stress; they remember these struggles, the time spent in hospital waiting rooms and bedsides. These children become young carers, filling gaps in the healthcare system and helping in ways their peers may not understand.
At Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, we have Camp in the City. A free day-camp, where kids can be kids when families are challenged by cancer.

Melissa*, a mother of three, had been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and recovering from surgery. The idea of entertaining her young daughter during summer break was overwhelming, even the simplest tasks felt impossible. Melissa’s feelings of loss, hopelessness, and guilt were immeasurable and the family needed help. By connecting with Gilda’s Club and Camp in the City, Melissa and her family were able to find the support they needed.

For me, the camp gave me a chance to recover at home and not have to worry about what to do with my daughter for that week.

Camp in the City is unique, allowing children ages four through twelve that are significantly impacted by cancer, to experience traditional day camp where other children share similar life experiences.

Designed and facilitated by child & mental health professionals and trained volunteers, Camp in the City fosters increased understanding of the feelings and emotions brought on by a cancer diagnosis, while increasing the child’s self-esteem. There is age-appropriate education about the cancer journey that enhances normalcy for children. The barrier-free environment of Camp in the City allows children to express their full range of emotions and they can see that they are not facing these challenges alone. Camp in the City is filled with fun and laughter, combining exciting trips throughout the city with entertaining guests who visit Gilda’s Club.

When we picked [our daughter] up after her first day, she was smiling and proudly talked about how all the kids at summer camp had a connection to cancer too. She felt like it was a safe space with others who were going through a similar life-changing event and they got it.

Camp in the City benefits the whole family, respite for those who are sick as well as their primary caregivers; the chance for kids to be kids; social and emotional support for kids and parents; and financial relief that comes with a free camp experience.

Honour families who are coping with cancer by make a donation to Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto. Your support will ensure Camp in the City continues to provide support to families with the assurance that their children are developing new skills, making new friends, and creating lasting memories this summer.

*Names have been altered for privacy purposes.