Camps put on by the American Cancer Society are one of a kind.

Not only do they offer summer camps and getaways for children going through the harsh battle with cancer, but they also offer options to the siblings who are there every step of the way.

It can be difficult for those siblings because they may feel left out or a lack of attention from their parents, and understandably so, one day camp director said. With no cost to the family, children who have gone through or are going through cancer treatments, and their siblings can even attend the same summer camp, such as the American Cancer Society Arizona Camp Sunrise that takes place at Summit School of Ahwatukee.

“Our goal is to have a normal camp experience outside of the hospital,” said volunteer and program director Erin Vosseller.

The summer camp hosted at Summit is two weeks long and is for children ages 3 to 7. There are also options such as a family overnight camp and the Sidekicks camp for just siblings. In total, the American Cancer Society services about 350 families through its programs, which is about 1,200 people.

“At (the Sidekick camp), it’s great for the siblings because they get to feel special,” said Vosseller, who is also a teacher at Summit. “We are really the only organization in the state that offers sibling camps.”

It can take some time for the kids to open up, whether it is about their own personal experience with cancer, or dealing with a sibling’s struggle, but when they do, it can create everlasting moments for those involved.

“I had a group of girls one time at a camp and at first they were quiet and didn’t want to talk about anything,” Vosseller said. “And we don’t push them to do that either. We are not there for therapy. But then one girl started to talk about her experience, and that got the ball rolling and pretty soon there was a great back-and-forth.”

It is one of the best results of such a camp, she said.

“They’re kids and they can relate to each and tell their stories. The younger ones I don’t think understand the full gravity of what they are going through, but it makes them feel better to talk about it,” she said.

Camp directors bring in activities and outsiders such as Partners that Heal, which is part of the Phoenix Theatre. At the camp on Friday, the volunteers from Partners that Heal played games and put on a show for the kids.

“The kids go through a whole gamut of emotions,” Vosseller said. “These camps are all about having fun.”

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