Special Love's mission is to provide a community of support for children with cancer and their families.
For nearly 40 years, Special Love has provided a strong, nurturing environment for children with cancer and their families through its free camps and get-away weekends. We have also offered emergency financial assistance, educational scholarships for young adults who have beaten cancer and are ready to move on with their lives, and scholarships for their siblings.
Special Love’s Camp Fantastic is a protocol within the National Cancer Institute and a recognized charity within the National Institutes of Health
Since its inception in 1983, children have come from the Washington metropolitan area, as well as from areas across the country through partnerships with the National Cancer Institute and Mid-Atlantic area hospitals.
Each year, Special Love serves hundreds of children, families, and young adults, and receives no government funding. All operating funds are provided by individual, corporate, and foundation donors. Children who participate in and benefit from Special Love's programs range in age from 7-17 years of age, and young survivors ages 18-30 years of age.
~Camp Fantastic – is held at the Northern Virginia 4-H Center located in Front Royal, Virginia; and welcomes more than 100 children each year who are actively in treatment, or survivors up to 5 years past treatment as they adjust to their “new normal.” Campers range in age from 7 to 17.
~BRASS Camp and BRASS Weekend – stands for BRothers And SiSters. BRASS is designed specifically for the siblings of our patients, as well as bereaved siblings. BRASS offers them a place for open, honest dialog with other campers and counselors to ensure they too are enveloped in a strong support system where they can put the family trauma of cancer away to spend time being a kid, with the focus completely on them.
~Family Weekends – a weekend getaway experience for the whole family that provides patients, families, survivors, and bereaved families the opportunity to join together and share what they have learned with each other on their cancer journey. These weekends also provide quality family time, which is scare during a cancer journey, and patients, survivors and families the opportunity to discuss how they are coping, or have coped; and why, even at the darkest times, there is room for joy.
~Parents Getaway Weekend – is a weekend solely for the parents of patients and survivors who are 30 years old or younger and still live at home, as well as bereaved parents. The weekend is planned for parents, by parents to provide them with a safe place to share and support one another in a small group setting; and as an outlet to deal with the facts of cancer individually, and ultimately regain a sense of control. The weekend welcomes parents of recently diagnosed patients as well, offering them a new community of support they will need on their child’s cancer journey.
Parents Weekend also provides the parents with spa-caliber treatment options such as massages, yoga, and make-up makeovers; as well as local activities and shopping, along with a Saturday night dinner dance. All things they no longer have time to enjoy.
VOICE (Virtual Online In-Hospital Camp Experience
In 2020, when the nation shut-down due to the COVID19 pandemic, Special Love developed and launched VOICE (Virtual Online In-home Camp Experience) within two weeks to continue its mission of providing a community of support for the children and their families. The pandemic was not going to stop us, knowing the added turmoil the pandemic would make in the lives of families already dealing with the unthinkable heartache of childhood cancer, and children with cancer would feel even more isolated and alone.
VOICE began with virtual campfires, fun short videos and small ways to stay connected, and as the pandemic continued, grew to include a virtual BRASS Camp for the patient’s siblings, offering an entire month of fun activities. That was soon followed by a week-long virtual Camp Fantastic, which brought all the joy of “camp” to not only campers confined at home, but those in the hospital as well. Each day started with morning assembly, and ended with virtual cabin chats.
Prior camp, each camper was sent a “Camp in a Box” kit packed with everything they needed to participate in every activity.
As the pandemic continued, VOICE grew into a twice monthly program reaching children across the country, and the Atlantic Ocean, and in the isolation of hospital rooms.
Emergency Financial Relief Program
A cancer diagnosis changes every aspect of a family’s life. Next to the well-being of a child, a parent’s most pressing concern is often financial.
Special Love provides emergency financial relief to families who have participated Special Love’s programming, as well as other families dealing with a child’s cancer. Assistance helps with non-medical financial needs such as utilities, rent and mortgage, as well as auto repair and payment and assisting in laying a child to rest.
In 2020, Special Love experienced twice the number of requests than in previous years, and not only assisted with funeral expenses, but helped one young man keep the dream of a future family alive by paying the cost for storage of his sperm while he undergoes cancer treatment.
Educational Scholarships for Cancer Survivors
Childhood cancer leaves families with debt, and some survivors with learning challenges that may make it difficult to attend, or get into a college or other post-secondary educational institution and trade schools. Each year, Special Love provides 35 to 40 educational scholarships to young cancer survivors who have participated in Special Love’s programs to assist with books, housing, and tuition.
Special Love’s young scholarship recipients have endured challenges and heartache during their treatments and move on with their lives by exhibiting great courage and strength. All have determined not to let cancer define them, or limit their futures.
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