Relay For Life Funds Help Youths Touched By Cancer

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Arizona Camp Sunrise is the American Cancer Society’s annual week-long resident summer camp session for children ages 8 and older who have or have had cancer.

Grant funds, much of it raised through community events, including Rim Country’s Relay for Life, cover expenses including round-trip bus transportation to the campsite at R-C Ranch in Payson, lodging, meals and snacks, arts and crafts supplies, camp activities, and a portion of the cost for the professional and medical staff who are on-site 24 hours a day.

Arizona Camp Sunrise, which began in 1983, is one of the oldest oncology camps in the country, and was the inspiration for Erma Bombeck’s book, “I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise.”

The Relay for Life, which begins at 6 p.m., Friday, June 3 and continues through 6 a.m., Saturday, June 4, is an ongoing campaign to raise funds for cancer research and fund local projects benefiting those with cancer. Relay for Life is comprised of area teams, which raise funds through a variety of their own events, including bake sales, rummage sales, car washes and more.

Last year, the Payson Relay for Life raised more than $35,000. The majority of the funds are used for cancer research, however, some funds are used in the community to provide educational materials, funding for wigs and college scholarships.

At the Payson Relay for Life, cancer survivors, their caregivers, family and friends walk the track at Payson High School. The event includes a memorial walk to survivors and those who lost their battle with cancer. For those interested in being a part of the Relay or joining a team, contact Jan Parsons at (928) 978-7606, or go to www.RimRelay.com or just show up Friday night and participate in your own way, visiting vendors, teams or walking the track.

Arizona Camp Sunrise is just one component of the American Cancer Society’s childhood cancer support program in Arizona, which offers year-round activities for children, teens and entire families affected by pediatric cancer.

In addition to Camp Sunrise, these activities include Sidekicks Camp for siblings of children with cancer; Summer Fun Day Camp sessions in Tucson and Phoenix for children ages 4-7; Family Camp for entire families that have been touched by pediatric cancer; a river rafting trip; and three weekend retreats scheduled during 2011.

Adolescents and teens living with cancer want to participate in the everyday experiences of growing up, but instead they face and fight a debilitating disease.

Each summer, Arizona Camp Sunrise strives to address the emotional, psychological and physical needs of young people affected by pediatric cancer by providing them with the opportunity to temporarily forget about cancer’s impact on their lives as they engage in traditional summer camp activities with other kids, teens, and young adults dealing with similar issues.

Activities like swimming, fishing, indoor and outdoor games, and arts and crafts are supervised by trained counselors and volunteer medical staff.

Campers are able to renew their spirits and gain strength, confidence and independence as they try new activities and make friends in a safe, supportive environment.

In an effort to remove financial barriers to families whose children’s disease may already have taken a toll on their finances, all ACS childhood cancer support programs are offered free of charge.

The goals for Arizona Camp Sunrise are for campers to just have fun; have new experiences; take on different roles and responsibilities relative to their fellow campers; share feelings about their cancer experience; feel supported; feel hope; and cope with their illness. A formal evaluation of surveys completed by participants in all of our Arizona-based childhood cancer support activities — children, parents and siblings — is conducted to allow ACS staff and the camp planning committee to assess the overall effectiveness of our program and ensure that ACS continues to meet the evolving needs of children and families affected by pediatric cancer.

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