Here’s How One Virtual Camping Event Brought Connection And Adventure To Children Affected By Cancer

by BDG Studios

While things have looked a bit different in 2020, that doesn’t mean time-honored traditions aren’t still happening. Whether it's in the form of a family reunion done on video chats, a long overdue coffee date transported to a park bench with ample room for stretching, a concert broadcasted into your living room via a new streaming platform, or a vacation turned bread-making staycation, we’ve all had to adapt our behaviors and change our highly anticipated plans in the face of an unprecedented global situation.

For the folks at the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, this meant taking their annual event for children and families affected by cancer and making it 100 percent online. The result was this year’s “The Ultimate Camp-In,” a star studded event hosted by Northwestern Mutual, through its Foundation and in collaboration with the Lollipop Theater Network, a non-profit dedicated to bringing current movies and entertainment to children confined to hospitals nationwide due to chronic or life-threatening illnesses. By recreating the summer tradition of going to camp but in a strictly online format, the organization sought to offer these children and their families a carefree experience that fostered support and connection with others going through a similar situation.

“The pandemic has forced many traditions and in-person experiences to be postponed or canceled — but we remain committed to doing our part and creating community for these special families, something that is more important than ever,” Northwestern Mutual Foundation president Eric Christophersen said. “To provide a fun camp escape for these children and parents, even for a day, was an honor.”

Fortunately for those who could not attend, the staff at Romper got an inside look at this year’s festivities including guests, activities, and so much more, truly showing how much hope creative individuals can provide to children and families in need through the power of imagination.

A Jaw-Dropping Magic Show

First up on the list of activities was a dazzling display of pure magic! Children and families gazed in awe at a unique virtual magic show courtesy of illusionist David Kwong. This interactive and engaging show provided children and families with the sense of wonderment that can truly only happen when one witnesses a small miracle. Children were hoping that David would share some of his tricks but they quickly learned that a true magician never tells!

A Special Cake Decorating Tutorial

Actress Monique Coleman of High School Musical and Cake Camp’s Julie Gordon added some truly delicious fun by creating an unforgettable cake decorating tutorial. Children and families played along at home, as families received a care package of essentials – including camp t-shirts, a S'mores making kit, art supplies, and cake decorating tools – prior to the event.

Dance Lessons With A Real Life Ballerina

As with any good summer camp, activities should be all about balance. So what better way to round out a cake decorating portion than with a little exercise? International Prima Ballerina and NYC Ballet Principal Dancer Tiler Peck dazzled children with a one-of-a-kind virtual ballet class. From pliés to sautés, children danced along with Peck, who also read bits of her semi-autobiographical children’s book, Katarina Ballerina.

A Touching NFL Tribute

The Camp-In also highlighted a partnership between the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and the Green Bay Packers' My Cause My Cleats campaign, where children affected by childhood cancer were offered the opportunity to design cleats to be worn by Packers Running Back Aaron Jones. Jones’ special greeting to the children truly provided them with a sense of hope and fueled dreams that they can strive to be anything they want to be.

And A Visit From The World’s Most Famous Sponge...

And what would camp be without a little visit from an old friend? A virtual Camp-In favorite, the real-life voice of Spongebob Squarepants Tom Kenny stopped by to premiere a never-before-seen sneak peak of his upcoming movie The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, answer questions about his busy life as the world’s most in demand sponge, and to introduce a special camping activity where participants could learn how to create their own favorite cartoon characters with a bonafide Nickelodeon animator.

While we still can’t gather together as much as we would like to, at least with the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and the Lollipop Theater Network, we can still provide hope and adventure for children and families in need.

The post is sponsored by Northwestern Mutual.