It is hard to believe that this is the 25th year of Camp Rainbow …we have definitely come a long way since 1988! We have provided free camping experiences to 3,349 children undergoing treatment for, and survivors of, cancer and other blood-related diseases. The campers come from the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, SSM Cardinal Glennon Hospital and Mercy Hospital.
It all started in 1987 when Allen Brockman visited cancer patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He asked the children what they were going to do in the summer…the answer was ‘nothing’. Allen suggested they go to camp; however, the parents told him there were no camps in Missouri or Southern Illinois that would take children with cancer or blood-related diseases. In 1988, Allen and his wife, Ronnie, changed that by creating the Camp Rainbow Foundation. The first one-week summer overnight camp for children ages 6-13 was enjoyed by 28 campers, 28 counselors and 10 staff. We all experienced a wonderful week of camp and we realized the importance of having a camp for these extraordinary children. In 1990, the teens asked us to add a Teen Camp weekend overnight program for 14-18 year-olds. The first Teen Camp weekend was highly successful with 11 teens…our most recent Teen Camp had 55 participants! In 1997, the hospital’s medical staffs requested that we consider adding a summer day camp for 4-6 year olds during the same week as the overnight camp. This too has been a highly successful program for the mini campers, and many of them go on to attend summer overnight camp. In 2008, we introduced our Camp-In program, a two day camp-like experience three times a year for children on the oncology floor and in the clinics of St. Louis Children’s, SSM Cardinal Glennon and Mercy Hospitals. In just five years, the Camp-In program has served 764 children.
Camp is very important to our campers…several parents sent us thank you notes saying (1) “Camp Rainbow has influenced our son and helped make him the happy 13 year old he is. We can never repay you for all your kindness. You have given him happy memories which he will carry with him forever.” (2) “This was my child’s first year attending Camp Rainbow and she had a blast! She had never been away from home and I was quite nervous about how she was doing at camp.
It brought tears of joy to my eyes when I saw her and heard about how much fun she had. Thanks to all who made this opportunity possible.” and (3) “My son has been home from camp for almost a week and he is still talking about all the fun things he got to do! He had an amazing week that he will remember forever. Thank you for making him feel great about himself and his lot in life at this difficult time.”
The Camp Rainbow Foundation is a member of COCA-I (Children’s Oncology Camping Association, International), whose mission is to strengthen the international community of camps for children with cancer and their families through networking, advocacy, education and other resources. Of the 90 pediatric oncology camp members of COCA-I, Camp Rainbow is one of only 26 that have been awarded the Gold Ribbon Camp designation, an honor bestowed upon camps which demonstrate a high level of commitment to serving children with cancer and their families.
We learned about the KOA Care Camps program at the COCA-I conference in Phoenix, AZ. We are most thankful that we have been a grant recipient of the KOA Care Camps program for the last 4 years….your grants have helped us to increase camper participation at Teen Camp and Camp In We are also grateful that Diane and Scott King have been to our camp office, visited the overnight and day camp, and attended our 25th celebration …Diane has done a wonderful job representing the KOA Care Camps board and with working the Camp Rainbow Foundation the last two years. We thank KOA Care Camps for your generous financial support, friendship and dedication to the children we serve…we are most appreciative and grateful for your continued support!
The Camp Rainbow Foundation is a charity on the move and we continue to grow. In the last five years, we have more than doubled the amount of children we had previously served. In 2008, 200 children attended at least one of our four camping programs; in 2012 we served 415 children. In 2010 we hired our first Director of Administration and opened a Camp Rainbow office in Chesterfield, MO.
Each year we review our camping programs to ensure that we continued to offer a safe environment and high quality programming for our campers.
Until there is a cure, Camp Rainbow will continue to provide free camping experiences for children undergoing treatment for, and survivors of, cancer or other blood-related diseases!