Soaking up summer fun at Camp Norden 2023

“Camp Norden is the place to be!” 

These are the opening lyrics to our Camp Norden song, and this year’s Camp was definitely the place to be.  

Childhood cancer fighters and survivors between the ages of 8 and 17 were invited at no cost to participate in classic camp experiences and high-tech virtual reality sessions. Whether campers gathered in-person in Crosslake, Minn. or through a virtual experience led by the inspiring and creative James Orrigo, all dove into new adventures and connections during five days this past August. Thanks to our amazing sponsors and volunteers, campers were able to foster a community of acceptance and creativity. 

In-person campers got to ride in style to and from Camp, thanks to the sponsorship of a charter bus from StoneArch Logistics. They started their days raising the Camp Norden flag, joining in repeat-after-me and do-as-I-do songs and skits led by energetic counselors.  

Singing our Camp Norden song with ASL to accompany it is always a highlight every day of Camp! Hearing and seeing campers and staff join in unison is a touching tribute to what Camp means to them. 

Afterward, there was no shortage of joy and adventure for campers.  

Mornings offered activities like making custom leather bracelets, archery, a trust course, water wars, horseback rides and more. Afternoons were filled with waterfront activities including pontoon rides, tube rides, skiing, kayaking and cannonballs. And evenings are always a highlight at Camp, with themes like Dream Night and fun group get-togethers like cabin color wars, a tailgate party and a visit by the local fire crew, an epic talent show and a beach dance party at sunset.  

Throughout the week, each cabin group had a team of counselors and nurses who made sure every camper’s needs were safely met. This wonderful, attentive team was led by Camp medical director, Dr. Karim Sadak, and co-Camp directors, Sam Bingea and Mindy Dykes.  

Staff witnessed friendships being formed, memories being made and more smiles than anyone can count. 

I witnessed the Loony Goony Wolves cabin discuss their experiences with cancer and the look of empathy and camaraderie when they realized they all went through very similar experiences,” said an in-person Camp Norden counselor. “They were laughing and discussing what they went through and all of them said that talking about it with fellow cancer kids was the highlight of their day.” 
“One of our campers recognized that another has a G-tube scar too, and they connected on their shared experience,” shared another in-person Camp Norden counselor. “Multiple times our campers were checking in on each other and people outside our cabin, working to include others.” 

Even parents see the long-lasting impact a fun week at Camp has on their child. 
“This was my daughter’s third year. She looks forward to Camp each year,” said a parent of an in-person camper. “The friends she has made at Camp stay connected through social media throughout the year. She likes having a safe place to be herself and connect with others with similar experiences. She already talks about being a Camp counselor when she ages out. The connections are strong! Thank you for all the hard work that goes into planning Camp and the compassionate and empathic staff and counselors that seek to connect with campers.” 

And while in-person campers were having a blast in Crosslake, there was a group of campers connecting with each other virtually! Amazing technology and the tireless team led by James made for an epic virtual Camp experience.  

Alongside volunteers, kids 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.  

“My son loved every minute of camp! He looked so forward to joining each day. His favorite part was the magician and learning some magic tricks since he loves magic,” said the parent of a virtual camper. 

Some campers from last year even joined in on the last day as junior counselors for some epic gaming fun! 

“Hearing from all of the kids and their parents saying how much they loved this experience and how important this was... They looked forward to coming back every day! A favorite part was when all the campers knew one of their campers was sick, so they all built a special world to cheer up the fellow camper. She loved seeing everyone dancing to her song and bringing in 3D models of cats to cheer her up!” said one virtual Camp counselor. 

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,” said virtual Camp Norden director James Orrigo. 

None of these life-changing experiences would be possible without the support from our donors, sponsors and volunteer staff. A huge thank you to Interstate Companies, Minnwest Bank, StoneArch Logistics and Project Run by Nike 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 campers win against childhood cancer. Camp Norden was able to beat isolation and feeling out of place, and instead bring joy to children who just want to be kids.

Children’s Cancer Research Fund is dedicated to making a positive impact in the world of childhood cancer, and part of that looks like Camp. 

More about Camp Norden

Camp Norden offers children touched by cancer the opportunity to make friends, explore and have fun with other kids who get it — at no cost to them or their families.

Learn more