Why On Belay?
A family member’s cancer diagnosis rocks the foundation of a child’s world. Hearing the news is just the beginning of what can be a long, challenging, life-altering, and often very lonely experience. The fear, confusion, sadness, and isolation that come with a cancer diagnosis can be unbearable for anyone and is especially difficult for children. Children may experience many emotions that are new to them that they simply don’t know how to deal with. They might find it difficult to articulate their feelings or to find someone to talk with. They may be aware that their situation is unique and don’t want to be singled out, yet they look for understanding among their peers, and, in many instances, can’t find it.
It is important to recognize that when cancer invades their lives, a child’s needs and means of coping can be very different than those of an adult. On Belay exists because we believe children will respond best to a program developed exclusively with them in mind. Our programs are inviting and are offered in a non-threatening environment. The program atmosphere is fun, energetic, and free of the burden of sadness. We create an environment where participants choose their level of challenge and are supported in achieving their goals.
While many programs exist to support children during a family member’s battle, On Belay recognizes the reality that cancer doesn’t fit neatly into boxes. Cancer and its treatments are amorphous – patients go in and out of treatment regularly and through periods of time where they are not being treated but are still living under the threat of cancer. Our programs are open to participants at all stages of their family’s illness, regardless of where they receive treatment.
On Belay is not a therapeutic program in the traditional sense, but we offer participants an opportunity to cope and perhaps heal through adventure, play and time away from dealing with their families illness. Our staff and volunteers are trained in the art of facilitation, adventure and our goals are to make On Belay day’s the best days ever.
“Illness of any family member introduces chaos into a child’s life in a number of ways. Parents have less time, energy and money available to their kids. Almost everyone will be more emotional and less patient at times. Routines change and activities are curtailed. Young children may regress in their development and behaviors. Older children could become more belligerent and argumentative…Kids who go through these difficult times with support from family, teachers and caregivers have the opportunity to develop a foundation of resiliency and emotional intelligence that can service them for the rest of their lives.”
Ellen, Keegan and Odom, A Family’s Journey