I just got back from 9 days at a camp called Camp Okizu. I had such an amazing time! First of all, have never gone to camp, even as a kid. My only frame of reference was from The Parent Trap with Lindsey Lohan.
A little background on Camp Okizu. It is located in Berry Creek, CA which is about an hour from Chico, CA. Camp Okizu is an Oncology camp. They have weeks where kids who have or had cancer can attend, as well as weeks when siblings of those affected by cancer can attend. They also have family camps. There is always medical staff there to make sure the kids are getting their medication, and to assist with any situations that may arise. Every year there is a new theme. This year the theme was Superhero!
I went to Oncology week 1, so the population I worked with were kiddos who had cancer, or are currently going through treatment. The first two days were staff training days. There was about 40 of us counselors, and over the two days, we really got to get to know each other through playing games, and spending time during meals together. A lot of the counselors were either oncology campers themselves, or a sibling of a camper. There were also plenty of us who are interested in working with this population in our field. Because many of the counselors were campers themselves, Many of them know each other very well. They are all very welcoming to the new staff, and by the end of the 9 days you feel like you have known these people forever. It has been about a week since I’ve been home, and I am missing them all very much.
In my cabin, I had 3 other counselors with me. Two of which were experienced, and one other who was new. To the 4 of us we had 7 girls between the ages of 9-12. The councelors all chose camp names instead of going by our given names. I chose the name Padfoot. (Points given to any of you who know what the name is in reference to.) We slept outside during the night, which was absolutely beautiful! I have never seen so many stars.
Our days were filled with tons of activities. As a cabin we got to do swimming, boating, arts & crafts, archery, fishing, hiking, etc. The kids also got to break off into Special Interest groups and do activities with other kids of various ages. During the week, meals were made special and unique by adding twists. We did a baseball lunch -the kids had to literally catch their hotdogs and chips, absolutely amazing lol!- we had meals outside with other cabins. We also had special events during the day – Mission in Metropolis – playing games to redeem for tickets, which the kids could turn in for a snow cone, or dunk a counselor.
This experience was absolutely exhausting, by the time I got home I was dead tired, I had a ton of mosquito bites, I needed a shower, and couldn’t wash my clothes fast enough. However, It was one of the most exciting and rewarding weeks I have had in a long time. I met so many amazing kids who openly shared their story with cancer, there was crying, laughter, and mourning the loved ones they have lost from cancer.
I couldn’t have asked for a better group of kids, or co counselors to have had this experience with. I will absolutely be back next year for Oncology 1! If you live in the area, I strongly encourage you to check them out!