Building Confidence: The Lasting Impact of Campfire Circle Programming

group of campers at adventure course at campfire circle muskoka

In the fall, Campfire Circle held a weekend gathering at our Muskoka site where we welcomed adolescents and young adults (AYA) for a weekend filled with adventure and fun, and opportunities to learn and connect with other adults who had childhood cancer. Many of the participants were camper alumni – former young campers who were able to re-engage with fun camp activities, reconnect with peers and build new friendships. It also created the opportunity to survey alumni and young adult participants and learn more about how Campfire Circle has had a lasting impact on their lives.

“Whether we’re providing fun activities for kids in the hospital or welcoming them to an exciting adventure at our medically-supported overnight camps, it’s easy to see the immediate benefits of Campfire Circle’s programs on children with cancer or serious illness,” says Lauren Chisholm, Director, Program Development & Strategy. “But with this AYA survey, we wanted to gather more information about how our programming contributes to long-term benefits, helping these children to build friendships and social skills, develop self-confidence and resiliency, and improve their overall well-being.”

group of campers wearing masks in the dining hall at camp

The survey results demonstrate that Campfire Circle programs have a lasting impact on our participants, promoting belonging and connectedness, perseverance and resilience, and hope and optimism for the future.

Some key findings include:

  • 93% of alumni indicated that their camp experience made it easier for them to cope with their illness and treatment
  • 98% believe that attending camp after their diagnosis made them feel less isolated as a child with cancer
  • 90% indicated that attending camp improved their ability to collaborate with others
  • 98% affirmed that their camp experience had a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing
  • 85% indicated that attending camp after their diagnosis helped them feel more resilient and prepared for their future
  • 90% asserted that their exposure to Campfire Circle programs gave them more confidence that has extended into their adulthood

group of campers sitting together at the camphitheatre at campfire circle muskoka

The survey also included two open-ended questions that invited alumni to share how their camp experience has equipped them to handle challenging situations and influenced their lives on a day-to-day basis. Here are a few quotes:

  • “Camp has made me into a confident and resilient person today. Learning that it was okay to be silly, vulnerable and being brave through my experiences at camp really prepared me for everyday life now years after my diagnosis.”
  • “Camp was an important builder of skills, interests and relationships that I didn’t end up having through the regular school year when I was a child. In retrospect, I found that my ability to make friends and communicate was hampered by my time at the hospital during my early childhood, but camp was a place where I made friends; friends I have to this day.”
  • “Being able to relate and socialize with other survivors made me far more confident in myself and how I approached future events. It made me realize that I wasn’t alone and was allowed to move on with my life without being just the kid who had cancer.”
  • “Camp has shaped me into who I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I think that the most impactful part of camp was the volunteers who always showed kindness and compassion in every situation… I believe that now in my adult life, I am more kind, caring, compassionate, hardworking, selfless and flexible because of the countless examples of these traits that I saw and experienced firsthand at camp.”
  • “It’s nice knowing that camp is there to help us cope with our childhood trauma. My experiences helped me learn a lot on how to cope with mental health issues.”
  • “I have learned so much from camp… compassion, leadership, presentation skills and communication skills. At camp, I have made long-lasting relationships that stand on deeper connections than the relationships you would make in the outside world. I am a happier and better person because I was fortunate to go to Campfire Circle during a hard time in my life.”
  • “I definitely feel that the support of camp, and ultimately other survivors, has made me feel less scared and alone facing my future. Dealing with the reality of my health and that I have a whole life ahead of me is really weird, and something that doesn’t come naturally to childhood cancer survivors, so being able to connect with others in the same boat is very reassuring and therapeutic.”
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