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

family 2Having a family member with cancer can rock the foundation of a child’s world. Hearing the news of a diagnosis is just the beginning of what can be a long, challenging, lonely and life-altering experience. For children this time can be especially difficult, it is often confusing and sad. Children may experience new emotions, which they simply do not know how to express. It can be a challenge to find peers who will understand what they are going through. They may be aware that their situation is unique and do not want to be singled out. Looking for support and understanding among their peers can be difficult.

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 offered in a non-threatening environment. The program atmosphere is fun, energetic, and free of the burden of sadness. On Belay creates an environment where participants choose their own level of challenge and are supported in achieving their goals.

While other 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 familyunder the threat of cancer. Our programs are open to participants at all stages of their family members illness, regardless of when 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.