Amy Skinner from Alberta created 'Summer Camp in a Box' for Kids Cancer Care in the midst of the pandemic


Using my Passion to Purpose Grant, I created Summer Camp in a Box for Kids Cancer Care, an Alberta organization which supports families affected by pediatric cancer diagnoses. Initially, I had hoped to donate through the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, however they were not taking donations at the time I started my project due to COVID-19. I chose to work with Kids Cancer Care because I was personally familiar with some of their activities and community involvement. After emailing Kids Cancer Care, I was made aware that their summer programming for families at Camp Kindle was cancelled due to COVID-19 so they were in need of summer activities for their families. This was a wonderful opportunity to create Summer Camp in a Box so families could have something to enjoy together whether they are outside or hospitalized. The camp director was wonderful in explaining a few items they really wanted inside the packages and I chose the remaining items based on what I would have wanted as a child on the hematology and oncology unit to enjoy with my family.


I started talking to my friends and family about this project and was very grateful that they supported it right from the beginning. The youth who helped with assembling these care packages were close family friends who are in our bubble of families due to COVID-19. Since we had contact with them throughout the pandemic and were seeing few people outside of our families, it was safe for us to come together to build the care packages. The volunteers ranged in age from 14-20. They were recruited because I had discussed the project with them and they expressed interest in helping with it.


Overall, I found the project to be really successful. I was worried that the youth might not rally around my project, but found that if you portrayed your excitement for it, the youth would pick up on it and support it. The youth made the project really enjoyable because they recognized its importance while also interacting with each other to build the packages. It was a good reminder that though society has primarily used technology for interaction in recent months, nothing can fully substitute working alongside someone in person to build each other and the community up.

I think there were three distinct groups which benefitted from the project, the families who receive the Summer Camp In a Box Packages, the youth volunteers and myself.

Firstly, the families who receive this care packages will positively benefit from the project. Due to cancer treatments, their kids are often immunocompromised, which means even as society starts to reopen these families are still vulnerable to any form of infection let alone COVID-19. These Summer Camp in a Box packages were created so they would have some fun activities they can do as a family throughout the summer, but also versatile enough that if their child is hospitalized throughout the summer, they are still able to make use of the activities. After talking to the Camp Director, Ben Pointer, he said that the families would be able to use many of the supplies we provided both at the camp since they are hosting two families at a time on camp property as well as in their homes. Despite Alberta being in phase two of reopening, the families are still unable to go to restaurants and other typical social outings because any potential risk of exposure to the virus could be detrimental to their immunocompromised child. As a result, they rely on volunteers from Kids Cancer Care to help with grocery deliver, food service and any activities that are brought into their homes. These care packages were intentionally donated to Kids Cancer Care because of their reputation for high standard of care toward families and diligence to ensure they stay safe from exposure to COVID-19.

The next group who benefitted from the project is the youth team I put together. They were really excited to be a part of creating something exciting for families this summer. It gave them the opportunity to come together to help their community which was really exciting for the youth. It was so much fun putting the packages together because I explained the purpose of the care packages and how many of each item went inside the boxes, but they turned it into a fun game where they were working together to be most efficient and still accomplish building the care packages. It was encouraging to see the youth really engaged with the project and excited to contribute to my passion project.

Lastly, I really benefitted from this project. As a child, I spent a significant time on the hematology/oncology unit at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Kids Cancer Care had many programs on the unit which made the long hospital stays more enjoyable. It was amazing to have access to the Passion to Purpose Grants as a resource to give back to this organization which helped me as a child. This project challenged me to think about what would be useful for families who often deal with hospitalizations and the logistics of navigating the world while immunocompromised. I reflected on my experience receiving care packages and decided on what made hospitalizations and times of isolation more fun while also making them practical for families to enjoy things together in the summer months. This was really rewarding because it felt like I was truly making a difference for these families who did not have the option of going to camp this year due to COVID-19.

As a child, I spent a significant time on the hematology/oncology unit at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Kids Cancer Care had many programs on the unit which made the long hospital stays more enjoyable.It was amazing to have access to the Passion to Purpose Grants as a resource to give back to this organization which helped me as a child.

Tell us about the lessons learned through your project. If you were to start your project today, would you do anything differently?

I learned that it can be a great conversation starter with people I didn’t know. When making my purchases, often the cashier would ask about what I was doing with such a large quantity of items. Through explaining I received a grant to create Summer Camp in a Box packages for Kids Cancer Care, they seemed very interested and inspired to do something similar. While I may not know if they ever complete a project of their own, I am encouraged that other people are supportive of these community projects and would be willing to assist people in their community in doing something similar. 


Surprisingly, I also learned that it can be difficult to spend your entire budget. Initially, I budgeted everything at full price and found I could only afford to create 21 of these packages. However, I found most of the items I had budgeted for full price on sale, so I ended up saving a lot of money. In the end, I ended up creating 24 packages with more items in it than initially planned for. It was a new experience doing so much math in the store to ensure I was using my grant to its fullest potential and adjusting my budget accordingly so it tracked all of my purchases. 


I hope to do a similar project in the future and use what I have learned to make any kind of care packages very meaningfully for the families. I think I would still create a budget based on fully prices, but also create a list of potential additional items in case I find my core package items on sale so I can continue to be intentional about the items in the care package. I really like giving back to families with children in the hospital because I have been in their shoes and recognize some of the needs they have. It helps me to reflect on my experiences as a child and also feel like I am contributing to a community which has positively impacted me.

Amy Skinner, P2P Acadia 2019 Alumni

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