For decades, Camp Enchantment has brightened the summer for thousands of cancer-ailing children from New Mexico. But as it prepares to open for the 28th year, the summer camp is in a tough financial spot, and camp organizers are asking the community to help sustain the program.
The free, week-long camp – run by the UNM Children’s Hospital pediatric oncology program – had been largely funded by the American Cancer Society. But last year Camp Enchantment and 45 similar camps across the country lost their main source of financial support, as the venerable cancer charity focuses more on cancer treatment and research.
“We were not sure we would even have a camp in 2014,” said Yolanda Vinajeras, head social worker in UNM Hospital’s pediatric oncology unit and the camp’s deputy director.
Fortunately for the 70 children registered for this year’s camp, scheduled to begin May 26, the doors will open, though camp organizers had to cut back a day of activities and limit the number of campers they could accept. Last year, 85 campers attended.
According to Vinajeras, it cost more than $100,000 to run Camp Enchantment– about $1,500 per camper, per year. UNM doctors, nurses and social workers are among the nearly 40 volunteers who donate a week of their time to help provide a traditional summer camp experience for children who are battling cancer or in remission from the disease.
This year’s camp will go on thanks to a last-minute fundraising campaign – conducted with the help of the UNM Foundation – that raised about $60,000. But Camp Enchantment’s future is far from certain. Organizers are asking the community to help bridge the financial gap so that New Mexico’s youngest cancer patients can continue to take a break from intensive cancer treatments and enjoy a week of fun.
“There are no other camps supporting cancer kids in New Mexico,” Vinajeras said. “This is an opportunity for New Mexicans to serve a very specialized population. While we are in a tough financial spot, we are encouraged that Camp Enchantment will survive with the ongoing support of community orgianizations and individuals giving throughout New Mexico."
Camp Enchantment will run May 26-31 at the Manzano Mountain Retreat in Torreon, N.M. The camp will host a "media day" on Tuesday, May 27 beginning at 10 a.m. News media are invited to meet children and staff, and to learn more about the camp. Journalists interested in attending can RSVP to the UNM Health Sciences Center public affairs office.
In addition to Camp Enchantment, the UNM Children’s Hospital pediatric oncology program also runs a fall camp, called Camp SuperStars, for siblings of children with cancer.