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'Never feel alone with diagnosis' | Camp opens in DC helping create a special summer for children with pediatric cancer and their siblings

For the first time, children with cancer in metro D.C. will be able to enjoy the magic of summer at the new Horizon Day Camp opening in June.

WASHINGTON — A camp for children battling pediatric cancer and their siblings plans to expand to the Washington, D.C. region. Horizon Day Camp provides summer camp and year-round programming 100% free of charge. 

"When a family experiences life with pediatric cancer, when one of their kids is diagnosed with cancer, everything changes for everyone in that family," said Joellen Kriss-Broubalow, the Director of Horizon Day Camp Metro DC.

From arts and crafts, to singing songs, Kriss-Broubalow said the goal is to provide a sense of normalcy for families.

"The parents get to drop their kids off at camp and know that they are safe and know that we are taking every precaution that we can to make sure that they have an amazing summer. A summer that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to have," said Joellen Kriss-Broubalow.

For several years, the camp has been available to families in Baltimore. This year for the first time, it is expanding to the Washington, D.C. area, helping children with pediatric cancer and their siblings a place to share a special summer together.

The day camps are all offered free of charge for families, thanks in part to donations from the community.

"We do everything we can to make sure that this summer is burden free. There’s nothing about this summer that is going to add stress or add inconvenience to them. So the donations that people give us help us to bring the camp to life. We can’t do it without donations from our community.

Riley Marshall has attended the Horizon Day Camp in Baltimore since 2016.

"Other kids, they look at you, and they wonder what’s wrong with you. They don’t want to do those things with you. They don’t want to include you just because you’re a little different. But, these kids at Horizon, they don’t care because we are all the same," Marshall said.

Marshall said she first enrolled in Horizon Day Camp shortly after her diagnosis at 9 years old.

"I needed to go for an MRI and they also sent me on the same day for that, not even an hour after we left we were on the way home from the MRI and they called with the results and they told us to go straight to Johns Hopkins, that I had a tumor," said Marshall.

Marshall said her social worker first connected her with Horizon Day Camp, based in Baltimore. 

"My social worker was showing me all the camps that I could join that would help me connect to some friends who were understanding of what I was going through," said Marshall. "It was so enjoyable just to be able to have a break to do things and to be able to do things that I haven’t been able to do because I was on treatment," said Marshall.

Marshall decided to enroll in Horizon Day Camp with her sister.

"To be able to be included in activities and do them all together and not have to explain to every new person that you meet why you didn’t have hair or why you couldn’t walk or why you couldn’t play kickball, it was just great," said Marshall.

"One of the especially magical things is watching kids make friends and watching them form a community with each other that they don’t get to have otherwise," said Joellen Kriss-Broubalow. "Sometimes the only contact our kids have is with a roommate in the hospital and so when they come to camp they get to leave with a whole set of friends and you get to re-experience the magic the next year when they come back and they see their friends again."

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"This idea of community, of never having to be alone with your cancer, with your diagnosis. It’s so hard to describe but there’s nothing like it," said Kriss-Broubalow.

On the morning of June 12, at National Harbor, Horizon will hold a walk-a-thon to support camp costs for children in your area.

"When you contribute or help a Horizon Camp with your contribution, your time or whatever it might be, you are making a direct positive impact on several families. There’s nothing like it," said Kriss-Broubalow. 

Donation go towards helping provide free camp for all campers and their siblings. To learn more about the program or help support Horizon Day Camp, click here.

“Horizon Day Camp is a project of the Pozez JCC and Sunrise Association.”

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