Summer camp for children with cancer goes virtual
NEW YORK - Elijah Blades, 17, was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just 5 years old. He's lived a cautious life with a weak immune system—always nervous when someone nearby would cough or sneeze. It's something we can all relate to right now. Finally, a window into their world.
"This pandemic is showing you what it has been like for many of us," Blades said.
He and hundreds of other young cancer patients and their siblings have been longtime campers at Sunrise Day Camp Long Island. We first introduced you to the camp at their Staten Island location back in 2016. It is a safe haven where everyone fits in.
"We are doing things like yoga, fitness, learning how to play soccer and doing all those types of things while the kids are on screen with our staff," said Deanna Slade, Sunrise Association's regional director.
It's a very different summer than previous years with the coronavirus pandemic forcing the camp to go virtual. Each week, every camper receives a box filled with arts and crafts, jump ropes and any other supplies they'll need. Then the counselors, who are physically at the camp in Suffolk County, teach activities online.
Keira Enright, 15, is another courageous leukemia survivor who's been going to Sunrise Day Camp since she was a young girl. She loves being outdoors and is surprised at how much fun she's been having this year online.
"I was really upset because I wanted to be there but now I love virtual camp because every day I'm excited to see my counselors, talk to them and it's like we are at camp," Enright said.
Sunrise Day Camp has 1,200 campers at five locations across the East Coast and three locations in Israel. It's a free experience for all campers.
For those families who don't have computers at home for this summer's virtual sessions, the camp gave out 200 tablets to families, which came from donations.