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Our Clubhouse Provides Camps and Fun for Children with Cancer and Their Families
by Dani Wilson

At Our Clubhouse, we know that when cancer happens, it happens to the whole family. That is never truer than when a child is diagnosed with cancer. One special family illustrates this so well. The parents, who have two children, recently sat down with us to talk about their experience with cancer and how Our Clubhouse has impacted their lives.

On April 3, 2016, we took our typical life for granted. Our day-to-day lives consisted of going to work and running our boys around to their various afterschool activities. We were a regular, every day, busy family.

Then, on April 4th, we took our four-year-old to the pediatrician because his arm had been hurting for a couple days. After a few tests, they sent us to a children’s hospital. By the end of the night, we were told that our son had to be admitted. I remember hearing the doctor say “cancer” and I remember being on the ground outside the glass door of his emergency room. It was earth-shattering. There is no control. As a parent, you want to fix things for your kid, but sometimes you have to trust others to do that.

The beginning was traumatizing for my son. He was stuck so many times for so many tests. Every time someone came in his room, he was petrified that they were going to hurt him. He didn’t even leave his room the first week we were there. The second week, Our Clubhouse was there with arts and crafts for the kids. We told him about the activities and were finally able to get him out of his room!

Camp Clubhouse is a week-long summer day-camp for children and teens (ages 5-12) that have cancer, have a loved one with cancer, or have experienced the death of a loved one due to cancer. Camp provides a safe place for children to share their stories and feelings or simply enjoy the day  and forget about cancer for a while. Campers engage in activities including art, games, and much more!

Later on, we were looking for day camps for kids with cancer. We couldn’t find options that were not over­night—which is important, because families often must admin­ister medication around the clock. Then we found Camp Clubhouse and thought, “This is great!”

The first year was wonderful! Both of our boys had so much fun. When camp was over, all they could say was, “When is camp again? When are we going back?” And this past year was wonderful too! They had a great time. And for us, meeting other families who are on a similar journey really helps. In such a terrible time, you realize you have common struggles with others. You are not alone.

Our Clubhouse including everyone is key. Our older son attending camp with our four year old was so important. As an older brother, he sees everything his little brother goes through and he worries just like we do. We even learned from a teacher that our older son was afraid he’ll come home one day, and his brother won’t be there. You know, kids can’t always express their emotions like adults. We are sure our older son feels alone because there is no one else at school who has a sibling with cancer. Being with other kids at Camp Clubhouse who have similar experiences was big for both of them.

The last treatment is scheduled for June 9, 2019. We are looking forward to that day, but we know that even then, it won’t be over. Our son will continue to get checked for recurrence. We will continue to worry. This is now part of our lives. But so are places like Our Clubhouse.
At the beginning, we felt alone. Now we realize we are supported and cared for. We found so many people willing to help that truly wish the best for our little boy and our family. That is why we love Our Clubhouse so much. We want to repay that and ensure other families get the same opportunities. If they have a child in this situation, we want them to feel the same way that both of our boys have. 

You know, as parents, we will worry about our kids until the day we are gone. But places like Our Clubhouse will be a constant. It will always be here for us, for him, for others. It is invaluable.

Dani Wilson is the Executive Director at Our Clubhouse. For more information, contact Our Clubhouse at (412) 338-1919, dwilson@ourclubhouse.org, or www.ourclubhouse.org.

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