150 Children with Cancer to Attend Camp COCO
“When you’re a kid who’s been diagnosed with cancer or you have a brother or sister with cancer, you have to grow up a little faster and realize that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Camp COCO allows these kids to meet and bond with other kids who understand these things,” said Gregory P. Brandt, MD, pediatric oncologist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.
The 32nd annual Camp COCO (Children’s Oncology Camp Organization) will host 150 children with cancer and other blood disorders and their siblings during its one-week session June 25-30. A project of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, the camp will be held at the Timber Pointe Outdoor Conference Center on Lake Bloomington. The theme for this year’s camp is “Lights, Camera, COCO!”
The campers, ages 5 – 17, receive special attention from a dozen of SIU’s pediatric staff members who spend the week providing medical care and sharing time with their patients and their patient’s siblings. Health professionals who treat some of the campers at the St. Jude’s Affiliate in Peoria, as well as community volunteers from Springfield, also provide care and assistance.
“Our campers can have a variety of limitations, but first and foremost, they are still children,” said Brandt. “They want to be treated the same as children without cancer with opportunities to run, play, swim and enjoy being with other kids.” Brandt is the medical director of the camp and the director of SIU’s pediatric hematology/oncology division. He is also a member of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU. He works with his pediatric team and staff from St. John’s Children’s Hospital and St. Jude’s to provide medical support to the camp.
Nearly 100 camps are listed with Children’s Oncology Camps of America, which coordinates communication between the various camps and helps develop guidelines for their operations. Two other Illinois camps are located in the Chicagoland area.
The SIU pediatrics department has established the COCO Children’s Cancer Fund, which supports the camp as well as year-round projects for patients being treated for hematological and oncological diseases. More than 600 individuals, service clubs and businesses contributed to the fund to ensure campers can attend at no cost to the families. The cost per camper is about $700.
Contributions to the COCO Children’s Cancer Fund can be made payable to and mailed to the Camp COCO/SIU Foundation, P.O. Box 19666, Springfield, Ill. 62794-9666, 217-545-2955. Online donations can be made at siumed.edu/foundation.
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