Camp Okizu is a free summer camp for children, who have or have had cancer, and their families. Okizu, pronounced oak-EYE-zoo, is the Sioux word for unity, to come together, to heal, to make whole.
The camp was developed with the cooperation of seven Northern California hospitals, including UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. Children ages 6 to 17 have the opportunity to attend one of several camps held in Berry Creek, near the town of Oroville north of Sacramento.
The camp operates several four-day retreats called Oncology Camp. At the beautiful 500-acre camp site, children have the opportunity to learn independence, develop self-esteem and learn new skills. There's swimming, boating, archery, crafts and the companionship of other campers.
The camp provides a place where children can meet others who have lost their hair during chemotherapy, have had to face a limb amputation or have experienced a relapse of cancer after months or years of treatment. For many children, the anticipation of Camp Okizu helps them through their painful treatments and diagnostic procedures.
The camp has specially trained counseling staff to assist kids throughout their four-day stay. During each camp session, an oncologist or cancer specialist, several nurses and staff from various hospitals, including UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, participate.
In addition to Oncology Camp, a Siblings Camp is offered for children ages 6 to 17 who have or have had a brother or sister with cancer. Weeklong Oncology and Siblings Camps are held from June to August.
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital also hosts a Family Camp weekend. Family Camps, held from May to September, are designed to give families a few days to "get away" for fun and relaxation.
Camp Okizu is made possible through financial support from foundations, community organizations and individual donors. Doctors and nurses from the seven participating hospitals serve as volunteers to help plan and staff camp activities for more than 600 children a year. Camp sessions are held throughout the summer at no cost to participating families. Registration takes place from April to August.
Please ask your nurse or social worker for information about registering for the camp. You also can contact Camp Okizu directly at (415) 382-9083 and visit its Web site at www.okizu.org.