Camp west of Edmonton offers retreat for families touched by childhood cancer

EDMONTON — A four-day camp was held west of the city this weekend for children going through different stages of cancer and their families.

Now in its 27th year, Camp Beat It offers a place for families to come together and gain support from others going through similar journeys.

muscular dystrophy Weekend retreat gives kids with muscular dystrophy a chance to just be kids
Students with the Bellerose Business Venture teaching children from the Kids With Cancer society how to make wood-fired pizza. Culinary arts students and Kids With Cancer team up in the kitchen
Kaylee Wilson, Su-Ling Goh, Dane Womacks, Mallak Chelbi and Justice Wollman in the Global Edmonton studio. PHOTOS: Kids with Cancer Society’s dream visit to Global Edmonton
Kick Cancer’s Arse Capes are for children and siblings who are fighting cancer and other serious illnesses. Small capes helping to provide normalcy for kids with cancer

“There are some in treatment, there are some who are in survivorship and others who have lost their children,” said Val Figliuzzi, executive director of the Kids With Cancer Society.

The retreat is held each September long weekend at Camp He Ho Ha, and offers everything from swimming and mini-golf to a climbing wall and family dances. About 80 families took part in the camp this year.

“It’s something we can do as a family. When you’re separated from each other — when one child’s in the hospital, two are at home; I’m in the hospital with the child that needs me — it’s nice to be able to come together and do something and have it planned out for you,” said Lindsay Lord.

Lord has three children. Her middle son Declan, 6, was diagnosed with spinal cord astrocytomas when he was just 10 months old. He’s been through two major spinal cord surgeries and 28 rounds of radiation therapy. Declan is in remission, but the tumours damaged his spinal cord and he is now considered a mild paraplegic. He uses a walker to help him walk.

“We deal with a lot of other things because of the cancer that we wouldn’t have dealt with,” said Lord.

“I often describe it as being hit by an imaginary train.”

But through the tough times, the Lord family remains extremely positive. This is the first time they’ve attended Camp Beat It and said it won’t be the last.

“It’s a place that we can go where Declan doesn’t have to feel different,” said Lord. “I know that there are lots of kids that have been through similar things.

“He fits right in. He doesn’t feel different, he just comes right in and there’s other kids who have different things going on and nobody judges or takes a second look, which is really important, especially for little people.”

Figliuzzi said that’s the whole point of the camp – to let the families know they are not alone.

“They know that they can pick up the phone and phone someone. They know that they can cry with someone and that they can express their fears. It really brings this community together.”

Declan Lord appeared on the Global Edmonton Morning News earlier this month with the Kids With Cancer Society. You can watch his interview below.

Watch video here: