Over Spring Break, twenty-two campers, six counselors and several Cavett Kids volunteers and staff traveled to Colorado to attend the Ski Camp for teens disabled by cancer, either through amputation or by involvement of muscle tissue. Each March, the campers receive special instruction and equipment for four days in Winter Park, Colorado, at one of the world’s largest programs for disabled skiers – National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD). During this outing, Campers work together to overcome their physical disabilities.
Above and beyond our Ski Camp, we also know that summer camp season is just around the corner, and children in communities across Oklahoma gear up for fishing, swimming, sleepovers, and playing baseball. In those same communities live hundreds of ordinary children living through extraordinary medical challenges; children who too often have to watch while others play, walk while others run, and hope for a time when illness no longer limits their opportunities to have a good time.
The Cavett Kids Foundation (CKF) was founded to ensure that Oklahoma’s chronically and seriously ill children have the same access to outdoor fun as healthy kids. Many children in treatment miss out on typical character-building opportunities - things like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, team sports, even after-school activities - due to illness. CKF camps and events provide the opportunity to experience childhood the way it is supposed to be lived, with hands in the dirt, and a worm on the hook. CKF camps and programs allow these kids to establish an identity away from the treatment room and hospital, to instill confidence while creating connections. This is the Cavett Kids’ experience – reminding campers their illness does not have to limit their ability to have a full life.
It is the hard work of dedicated volunteers – from dialysis nurses that keep bedside vigil each night to the local fisherman who come back every year just for fun – that makes these camps happen, ensuring both a good time for the kids and a continuum of specialized care. Knowing that their children are safe and happy, parents have the rare opportunity to relax and enjoy their temporary respite from daily caretaking duties.
Over the years, donors have generously given of their time in a plethora of activities such as taking kids fishing and tubing during Camp Cavett (children with a variety of life-threatening illness), white water rafting at Heart Camp (teens with congenital heart disease), skiing at Ski Camp (campers affected by muscle loss or amputations due to cancer), shooting clay pigeons at Leadership Camp (campers with exceptional leadership qualities), leading archery at Camp Wildfire (spina bifida, cerebral palsy and PKU patients), dancing the night away at Kamp Courage (kidney/spina bifida/diabetes), and teaching older campers life lessons at Transitions Camp (campers striving to succeed at adult life) These camps have significantly contributed to making a life changing impact on these campers’ lives.
“Camp Cavett has allowed me to finally put the puzzle pieces together. Going through chemotherapy and experiencing cancer leaves us all confused – with a lot of unanswered questions and loose ends. At camp, we relate to each other – and we are the only people in the world that can improve each other based on each individual’s personal struggles and experiences. We live such different lives from the rest of the world. When we come to camp, for once, we’re normal.” - Paige (Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma).
Outside of volunteering time, others have generously given and raised thousands of dollars so that these special children can enjoy camps free of charge. These camps and events are not possible without the extreme generosity of private donations. The Oklahoma community has become a mountain of support for Cavett Kids Foundation and its many campers.
Cavett Kids Foundation - Three C’s:
- Teach Coping Skills in a nurturing, fun environment;
- Build Character by reinforcing positive expectations and encouraging personal growth;
- Establish meaningful Connections between children who often feel isolated from their peers.
These are the “Three C’s” that the Cavett Kids Foundation strives to instill in every camper – the cornerstone of the Cavett Kids’ philosophy, and the main reason that Cavett Kids’ events so often become a transformative experience for both campers and volunteers.
What started with one camp and a dream has now become six camps serving over 400 children with various life-threatening and chronic illnesses each year. The diagnoses may differ – leukemia, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, Crohn’s disease to name just a few – and the treatments and outcomes may vary, but a common experience links all campers, creating a unique environment where children hear stories that sound remarkably like their own. For many, camp is the only place where these children feel truly understood, where they never feel left out. Cavett Kids also helps over 12,000 children and their families through a partnership with University of Oklahoma Physicians called Diversionary Play.
Camp fosters independence and self-sufficiency; it creates a sense of being able to do normal things while dealing with extraordinary challenges. In the process, support systems are formed, friendships that campers can rely on long after camp is over and the hardships of normal life have resumed. Children feel it and parents see it. Children come home, tired but happy, fortified by fun and sunshine, excited about the challenges they faced and the friendships they made, instilled with newfound feelings of independence, and – most important of all – proud of themselves and all that they accomplished. When Cavett Kids go back to school in the fall, they’ll have their own camp stories to tell - just another ordinary summer camp experience in the Oklahoma sunshine. Isn’t that extraordinary?
Cavett Kids Foundation: "Where illness does not define the child."
learn more cavettkids.org