This time of year, camp Ta-Kum-Ta would typically be a busy spot filled with outdoor adventures for Vermont kids battling cancer, but COVID-19 forced them to shut down programming.
Despite a mountain of challenges, over 100 volunteers are working to give campers a special summer memory, even if they can’t be together.
After the camp closed in April, the conversation among staff, volunteers and donors shifted to figuring out how the traditions of their summer camp experience could be enjoyed from home.
“They need this joy now more than ever, and those connections with each other,” said Dina Dattilio, the camp’s program manager. “Some of these kids sometimes aren’t well enough to go to camp, and they need to be kept safe at home, kept safe in the hospital and so our hope is that we can connect with them now in a very different way we might not have had the opportunity to do otherwise.”
A parade will kick things off, with volunteers bringing a bag full of goodies to each camper’s front yard throughout Vermont and Upstate New York, along with all the supplies they’ll need for a full week of interactive online programs.
In addition to the remarkable volunteer effort, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta Executive Director Dennis DePaul said donors have stepped up bigtime.
“I’ve yet to get through a conversation where there aren’t tears involved both from myself and the donors, because it’s a pretty hard program to replicate,” DePaul said. “The efforts that we are going to do and have gone through in the last four months to reinvent everything we’re doing has been incredible and the donors are thrilled and excited.”
It’s not how anyone envisioned Camp Ta-Kum-Ta’s 36th year unfolding, but even through a pandemic, the show will go on for the kids who need it most because the community made it their mission.
“We can’t do what we do for our families without our community or our donors, and we’re so thankful for them,” Dattilio said.
“The creativity of that group, of our program committee and individual volunteers who recruited people in their lives to create virtual things for us, it’s mind-boggling,” DePaul added.
Camp Ta-Kum-Ta provides year-round programs for children who have or have had cancer, and their families.