For more than 35 years, The Valerie Fund has operated Camp Happy Times, a one-week overnight camp experience for any child aged 5-21 who has or has had cancer, regardless of where they are treated. The Valerie Fund offers Camp Happy Times free of charge, including transportation, meals and on-site medical care. Over 150 children attend Camp Happy Times each summer. It is located at the 200 acre Tyler Hill Camp in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Tyler Hill is fully accredited by the American Camping Association and Camp Happy Times is a proud member of the International Children's Oncology Camping Association.
Camp Happy Times promotes friendship, independence, and a spirit of cooperation for cancer patients and survivors. It's a place where campers and counselors alike can say, "I know how you feel," and mean it. Because the many of the counselors there were once campers themselves.The CHT philosophy is to provide a recreationally therapeutic environment that builds self-esteem, confidence, trust and friendship. While they are there, campers do not feel self-conscious about their illness or the scars their illness may have left. Campers don't have to explain their disease while they are at camp. And they make lifelong friends that become part of the unique Camp Happy Times family.
"I look forward to going to Camp Happy Times every summer, with children who are more accepting of my differences. I try to stay strong and this is one of the things that keep me going all through the school year."
— Amanda, age 12
Campers are encouraged to take on the challenges of all of the activities—rock wall, tubing, arts and crafts, swimming, basketball, gaga, and tennis, to name just some. They bunk with children in the same age group and are matched with two to three counselors per bunk. For many, this is their first time away from home. Camp Happy Times offers a comforting environment that encourages individual development and group play.
Staff and counselors are all volunteers. Applicants for CHT staff positions are carefully screened prior to acceptance. Many counselors are former campers and return each year. At camp, new counselors are teamed with experienced counselors. Everyone attends training sessions in order to maintain our high standards. A 24-hour infirmary includes Valerie Fund doctors and nurses staff who administer chemotherapy and administer medications to campers throughout the week. Psychosocial staff is also present at camp.
Our leadership program is an essential program for 19-21 year olds. Specifically designed to promote emotional growth and positive change in teenagers as they transition from campers to potential camping leaders, participants learn decision-making and other leadership skills. They even work alongside full counselors during regular camp activities during the day to help understand what their roles will be should they decide to apply to be counselors in the future.
““I remember being scared in the beginning but when I met the nurses and child life specialists, I figured out they are really nice and made me feel better. They take good care of me and I like that."”