The mission of Wapiyapi is to foster healing, fun, and friendships for children and their families facing childhood cancer through an exceptional camp experience
Wapiyapi was the inspiration of a group of medical students from the University of Colorado in the early 1990s. Dedicated to the healing and well-being of their pediatric oncology patients, the students envisioned a therapeutic experience outside of the hospital. They initially formed a local chapter of Camp Quality, an international camping alliance, to help their patients 'escape' cancer in a beautiful mountain setting far away from the hospital and doctors' offices. Encouraged to include the patients' siblings when first forming their chapter, they immediately saw the benefits for the entire family and siblings remain a core element. The organization has served nearly 2,000 children through free camps and retreats since receiving 501(c)(3) status in1998.
The cost to send a child to Camp Wapiyapi is $1,250 which includes the cost of highly personalized support through adult counselors. Ninety-three percent of campers are from Colorado and 21% qualify for free or reduced lunch programs through their schools. By serving the widest range of ages between 6 to 17 years of age, Camp Wapiyapi provides parents with an opportunity for rest and reflection knowing that their children are safe and well-cared for at camp. A 100% volunteer medical staff is onsite 24/7. Wapiyapi is a Lakota Sioux word that means "health and healing." For kids with cancer and their siblings, it also means hope.
"Thank you for bringing a sparkling confidence to his eyes and a swagger to his steps."
"¡Gracias a todos los que hacen esto posible porque definitivamente los niños se olvidan por una semana de sus diagnósticos de cancer! Gracias! Thanks to everyone who makes this possible because children definitely forget about their cancer diagnoses for a week! Thank you!"
"I was grateful, and felt safe doing so, to leave my children so far from home among people who understand our journey. Camp Wapiyapi heals all of us."
"The need for Camp Wapiyapi is vital to these kids. They need friends their own age, exchanging stories and feelings. Empathy is valued and shared. There is a zest for life, laughter, and acknowledging all the good in people."
"This was the first time I felt equal in my family's cancer journey. It wasn't just about my sister's cancer; I realized that I too am important."
"He was so hesitant about going, but all that changed when he met his companion. He participated in almost everything and couldn't stop talking about all of the activities and his new friends. To see his face light up again meant everything to me!"
"Our 6-year-old is very shy, so had his sister not been able to attend with him, he very likely would not have gone. His sister appreciated that she didn't have to discuss and re-analyze her experiences as a sibling -instead, they both just got to be kids!"
"I like the activities and the companions. I like how they spend time with you, and they're focused on you. And they make sure you're having fun and that you're still taking all your meds."
"With both of our children safely at camp, my husband and I felt a love and acuity that we had not experienced since our daughter's diagnosis. I realized how needed this healing connection was for our family."
"Linzy grew from this experience; it will be a part of her grief, and looking ahead for teenage years. We are learning that grieving never ends, it's just getting through it so that we never lose ourselves, and our yearning for tomorrow's new adventures. I know it has already ignited positive changes in her. We are both grateful. Thank you!"
"Camp Wapiyapi is the only camp that takes the sickest children. My daughter wasn't allowed at other camps until she actually fought cancer. Some won't take kids until they have had their medi-ports removed. Wapiyapi never judges, they just accept the kids they way they are."
"I loved volunteering at Camp Wapiyapi. As an education major, this was a huge learning experience for me. When I go to other camps and work in classrooms, the atmosphere created by Wapiyapi comes to mind and I always try to create that wherever I am."
"Our kids are treated special without being treated 'special' or different. They can do things without limitation. My kids love their champions and cherish the friendships. My kids have made lasting friendships that have supported them in so many ways outside of camp. We are grateful."
"The one truly unique aspect of Camp Wapiyapi is the inclusion of siblings, and that more than anything, has the greatest impact on our family."
"This has made a huge impact in helping Amy come out of her shell a little and try things she NEVER would have tried if we were around. Sam is hoping to become a counselor so that he can give back and help other kids like his counselors did for him."
"Both of my kids - our cancer survivor, but more importantly her brother - come home with a strong desire to help others and a renewed appreciation for the lives that they have. Thank you so much for all you do for our children!"
"This is my second time having cancer. Going through chemo again, I close up like a flower all the time at home 'cause I am nervous how people will react to me. But when I come to Wapiyapi I bloom again 'cause people here are so kind."
"All three of my children love sharing the stories and experiences of camp throughout the year. It is a bonding time for them among themselves and with others who are in similar situations. The companions are excellent and make the experience all the better."
"Over the past year, she repeatedly tried to bury the trauma and anxiety related to her diagnosis and treatment. Camp allowed her to 'let go' of (the) stress and truly smile again!"