Tenafly—The Kaplan JCC on the Palisades, from August 24 to August 28, 2015, will host Camp Dream Street for children with cancer and other blood disorders. Camp Dream Street gives campers a one week opportunity to meet new friends and share new experiences.
Camp Dream Street was founded in 1990 by Pearl Seiden with only 20 campers. 26 years later, Camp Dream Street has grown to serve over 175 campers, ages 4 to 14. The camp is staffed by volunteers who must be 16 years and older. However, not only do high school students volunteer, but also college students, college graduates, parents, and grandparents as well. Counselors who have once been campers also sometimes come back to volunteer.
Former camper and current Camp Dream Street volunteer Everett Hynes said, “I decided to go back to camp because as a kid I didn’t understand what was going on with my body and my disease. I didn’t know who to talk to and my counselors were like big brothers to me. I wanted to go back to guide someone, to give someone that same helping hand. Being with the kids helps me shine a light on a dark situation.”
The camp is modeled after a regular camp in terms of having the kids divided into groups with different ages and genders. Counselors are given a schedule of programs, which can feature a number of daily activities such as arts and crafts, sports, dance, music, nature, baking, martial arts, swimming and other special daily activities. Some new activities this summer are krav maga, an expansion of the nature program, yoga and a beading program. There are special events like a carnival, an airbrush artist making custom shirts for campers, and dogs that come to the program and walk around the camp grounds.
Camp Dream Street is available to oncology patients and their siblings who are on active therapy or those who have completed chemotherapy treatment after August 2010. All children, and their siblings, with chronic hematological diseases, such as sickle cell anemia or hemophilia are eligible to attend. Dr. Cindy S. Steele, the medical director for the camp, is an attending physician at the Tomorrows Children’s Institute of Hackensack University Medical Center. Qualified oncology nurses and social workers are part of the full-time camp staff.
The camp provides both the campers, and their siblings a full week of fun. A week without having to think about doctors appointments, or hospital stays. “We focus on the good, what campers can do, not what they can’t. We don’t place limitations on campers, and alternative activities are available if a camper cannot participate,” director Lisa Robins said. “You wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between the camper that’s a patient and a sibling at camp.”
Camp Dream Street is sponsored by Dream Street Foundation, Tomorrows Children’s Institute of Hackensack University Medical Center, Herbert Irving Child and Adolescent Oncology Center at Children’s Hospital of New York, Columbia University, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, The Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, The Beatman Foundation, Jenna’s Rainbow Foundation, Pearl’s Girls, RD Legal Funding, LLC.
For more information and to obtain a staff or camper application please contact: Lisa Robins, Camp Dream Street Director, 201.408.1455 [email protected].
By Amanda Leifer