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Camp Quality coming to Bay Cliff

In-person, virtual events planned for pediatric cancer patients this summer

Kids are shown having fun at Camp Quality, a national camp program for pediatric cancer patients and their siblings. Through a partnership with the Upper Peninsula Lions Clubs and Bay Cliff Health Camp, the program will welcome kids from across the U.P. and eastern Wisconsin with an in-person kickoff event at Bay Cliff in Big Bay on June 19, and a virtual camp week July 12-16. (Photos courtesy of Camp Quality USA)

BIG BAY — Camp Quality USA, a camp program for pediatric cancer and blood disorder patients, is making its way to the Upper Peninsula for the first time this summer.

The camp will run virtually July 12-16 with an in-person kickoff event on June 19 at Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay. The program is offered at no cost to the families, with Camp Quality being funded through fundraising efforts and generous donors.

The U.P. camp program was made possible thanks to a partnership between Camp Quality Michigan, the U.P. Lions Clubs and Bay Cliff.

Camp Quality was founded in 1983 in Sydney, Australia, and expanded to the United States in 1986 with the first camp held in Missouri.

Today, there are 21 Camp Quality programs throughout the U.S. Camp Quality Michigan was the second camp started in the U.S. in 1987, which was held in Boyne City. Bay Cliff becomes Michigan’s third Camp Quality location, with its “North” and “South” camp programs taking place downstate in Luther and Fenton.

Jean McDonough, executive director for Camp Quality Michigan, said a U.P. Camp Quality has been in the works for several years.

“Camp Quality decided to come for a couple of reasons,” she said. “We connected with the Lions clubs in the U.P. several years ago during an activity in Traverse City. We found out about the U.P. and Bay Cliff. I started holding meetings with the U.P. Lions Clubs as pediatric cancer was one of their new initiatives. They were really looking to become more involved with kids with cancer. We went up there and gave a presentation to the Lions clubs about a year and a half ago, and they made the commitment right then and there.”

Unfortunately, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the planning phase, which is why organizers opted for a virtual camp week this year, along with the in-person, socially-distanced kickoff event in June, should things stay on course.

“We started our meetings, we were going to start and then COVID hit,” McDonough said. “Everything has kind of been postponed. We’re having a hard time because of COVID and trying to get things coordinated. This year, we were hoping to get back to an onsite camp where we would have families, but with COVID not really relenting at the moment, we’re going to try to do an onsite meet-and-greet with COVID protocols being followed on June 19, prior to camp (week) if COVID allows us. If that doesn’t happen, the virtual camp will continue despite that.”

The U.P. Lions Clubs have identified more than two dozen families battling pediatric cancer. Therefore, bringing a camp program to the region was important.

“We know there’s kids up there,” McDonough said. “So far, the U.P. Lions Clubs have identified 29 families (battling cancer). We’re also opening the camp up to kids in eastern Wisconsin. One or two of the hospitals where they treat U.P. kids are in eastern Wisconsin. We’ve been in contact with them (the hospitals), and they’re pretty excited as well.”

Organizers also said choosing a location for the camp was one of the easiest things to do in the planning phase.

“Bay Cliff is one of the nicest health care camp facilities I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to a lot in Michigan,” McDonough said. “It’s a hands-down nice facility, and we’re excited to be here with these kids.”

Whether this year’s camp is a success or not, McDonough said Camp Quality is here for the long run.

“Unfortunately, cancer is here to stay,” she said. “There’s not a lot of research and development that goes into it because there’s just a small portion of diagnoses in the world, mostly in the U.S. It’s difficult because new drugs aren’t coming out. They’re making headway in leukemia treatments, but for brain cancers or skin cancers or bone cancers, there are no treatments or drugs. We know pediatric cancer is not going away anytime soon, and as long as it’s here, Camp Quality will be too.

“We’re here to provide activities for these families because they’re put under a lot of stress. Taking care of their children, it can be a financial hardship on the families. We want to make their trip down the cancer road just a little bit more pleasant, if you will. Giving them something to look forward to other than treatment and that kind of thing.

“That’s what we do. We’re excited to work with Bay Cliff. The Lions (clubs) have been supportive financially and with contacting families. We’ve built a very good relationship between these three organizations to get this rolling.”

This year’s camp theme is “Thrive,” where kids will be taken on an adventure with daily themes of creativity, humor, confidence, gratitude and zest through the use of imagination, fun and enthusiasm.

Each child will receive a backpack filled with camp week goodies, and the virtual camp program will be held via Zoom and Flipgrid platforms throughout the week.

The in-person kickoff event at Bay Cliff will follow all state and national COVID-19 guidelines, and will give campers, siblings and families an opportunity to meet Camp Quality staff, other campers and tour the facility, where future camp programs will be held when the pandemic is under control.

If you’re in a family battling pediatric cancer and would like to sign up your child and their siblings, register at www.campqualityusa.org/mi/ by clicking on the “Thrive” logo. For more information, call the Camp Quality Michigan office at 231-582-2471.

“They can contact our office if they have any specific questions,” McDonough said. “Any questions, we’re happy to answer at any time. We want these kids to just try it. We know they’re ‘virtual-activitied’ out, but if we can get them to jump in and try it, they can see how exciting and fun Camp Quality is. It’s time for these kids to be around other kids going through the same things they are. It’s time to share their concerns, worries, thoughts and support from an organization not focusing on cancer, but focusing on kids’ emotional and social well-being. We want to provide for those families and keep them happy.”

For more information on Camp Quality’s national efforts, visit www.campqualityusa.org.

For more information on the U.P. Lions Clubs and its pediatric cancer initiative, visit www.uplionsserve.org.

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