In 2014, it is estimated that 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
For most children, summer is a time for being outside and fun with friends. Camp Alphie at Ceta Canyon in Randall County, provides all of that, but with a twist.
Camp Alphie is a free program designed for children like 6-year-old Calen, who have battled cancer and are constantly in and out of the doctor’s office.
Calen was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier this year, and his older brother is recovering from cancer.
Calen and all three of his siblings were among the 66 Texas Panhandle-area residents that attended Camp Alphie from July 13-18 this year.
“No doctor’s visits — that’s my favorite part of camp,” Calen said.
For a week, vacationers at Camp Alphie are given the chance to have fun and interact with other cancer survivors under the supervision of trained staff members, including TTUHSC nurse Brenda Chandler.
Chandler, a pediatric oncology nurse, said she loves staying out at the camp with the children and watching them get a break from the throes of living with cancer and being surrounded by the disease.
The feeling is mutual.
“At the end of the week, most campers don’t want to leave,” Chandler said. “They want to stay.”
And why wouldn't they? Camp Alphie offers indoor and outdoor activities including swimming, inflatable bounce houses, obstacle courses, horseback riding, shaving cream fights and a themed dance night.
Camp Director Michael Qualls said Camp Alphie is special not only because of how it changes the lives of the children and parents who attend, but also because it has an impact on the people in charge of the program.
“Camp Alphie has changed my perspective on life, and the kids I work with at Camp Alphie are a true blessing to my life,” Qualls said on the organization's website. “I look forward to many more memorable years with my new friends and family of Camp Alphie.”