This year’s Camp Norden was nothing less than magical. Whether campers gathered in-person in Crosslake, MN or through a virtual experience led by the inspiring and creative James Orrigo, all experienced new adventures and connections over five days this past August. Childhood cancer fighters and survivors aged 8-17 were invited at no cost to participate in classic camp experiences and high-tech virtual reality sessions to foster a community of acceptance and creativity all thanks to our amazing sponsors and volunteers.
In-person campers started their days exploring the nature paths, joining in repeat-after-me songs and skits led by energetic counselors, sharing gratitude at mealtimes, crafts, archery, trust course, water wars, horseback rides and more. Afternoons were filled with waterfront activities including volleyball, pontoon rides, tube rides, wakeboarding, kayaking and cannonballs. Evenings are always a highlight at camp! Cabin color wars, pirate night, tailgate party and a visit by the local fire crew, an epic talent show and beach dance party at sunset filled their nights with joy and adventure.
Each cabin group had a team of counselors and nurses who made sure that every camper’s needs were being safely met, led by camp medical director, Dr. Karim Sadak, and camp director, Mindy Dykes. Staff witnessed friendships being formed, memories being made and more smiles than anyone can count.
“Being a nurse, I am used to seeing these kids in the midst of their treatments. It meant the world to me to have the opportunity to see them outside of the hospital setting, thriving at camp. It was beautiful to see them trying new things, making friends, and creating memories to last them a lifetime. It was an honor to see the joy on their faces and witness them step into who they are, which is everything but their diagnosis. There’s nothing like it.” - Nurse Claire
Another highlight of in-person camp was learning our Camp Norden song and ASL to accompany it. Hearing and seeing campers and staff join in unison is a touching tribute to what camp means to them. One camper shared at mealtime that they were “grateful to be alive”. “This group of campers are some of the most kind, caring and empathic kids I’ve ever encountered.” - Camp Director Mindy Dykes
And while the in-person campers were having a blast in Crosslake, MN, there was a group of campers making an impact with each other virtually! Amazing technology and the tireless team led by James made for an epic virtual camp experience. These kids and volunteers from across the country spent their days creating and being entertained. Each camper received a special box before camp filled with daily packages that included their Oculus VR headset, puzzles, codes to each day’s adventure and more.
This year’s group got to create sneakers in Project Outrun and were wowed by a master magician. They learned 3D modeling tools to create their own masterpieces and created amazing videos. Some campers from last year even joined in on the last day as junior counselors for some epic gaming fun! Virtual Camp Norden forms bonds among these campers and creates memories to last a lifetime, just like in-person camp does! “The whole point of virtual camp is to give campers access to innovative technology and use these tools in meaningful ways, and when you see what they are creating you can see that it works.” James Orrigo
"Thank you all for this! One of the best weeks he's had in two years! We cannot thank you enough!" - Parent of a virtual camper
"In the past two years I haven't been able to play with kids, means this has been a very fun experience to play with kids in virtual reality! I want to let other kids know this helped us!" - Deklyn, virtual camper
"I really appreciate the time you (James), Kristin and your team come up with so many creative ideas just so these kids have a place to escape and "Just be '' having that feeling they once had. My heart is so full seeing my babygirl excited to be involved in things that excited her yet still bringing awareness to childhood cancer. You all are amazing" - Jenny, mom of Gianna
None of these lifechanging experiences would be possible without the support from our donors, sponsors and volunteer staff. A huge thank you to Lube-Tech, Deluxe and Aflac for supporting this year’s camp. Another huge thank you to the staff and volunteers who help make all the magic happen at camp. Their care and kindness help the campers win against childhood cancer. Camp Norden was able to beat isolation, beat feeling out of place and bring joy to children who just want to be kids. CCRF is dedicated to making a positive impact in the world of childhood cancer and part of that happens to look like camp.
To learn more about Camp Norden, visit CampNorden.com.
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