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Camp Jinka honored for innovative program

Posted on: 07/31/2011

Camp Jinka honored for innovative program

Summer camp open to children with relatives affected by brain tumors

Volunteers help campers search for fossils in a brook at Poricy Park in Middletown during a session of Camp Jinka, a camp for children and teens that have been affected by a loved one’s diagnosis of a brain tumor. Volunteers help campers search for fossils in a brook at Poricy Park in Middletown during a session of Camp Jinka, a camp for children and teens that have been affected by a loved one’s diagnosis of a brain tumor.The New Jersey Recreation and Parks Association has recognized local summer program Camp Jinka with its Innovative Program Award for providing respite and support to children with family members affected by brain tumors.

Camp Jinka is a free summer program offered by the David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center at Monmouth Medical Center in conjunction with the Jinka Foundation, Middletown Arts Center (MAC) and Poricy Park.

“Many kids have this experience [with illness] and can’t talk about it to people at school, because they just don’t get it, especially if they lose a loved one,” Jesse Chism, Jinka Foundation arts and education coordinator, said.

Chism said that Camp Jinka creates a comforting community for the affected children to connect with others who can relate to their hardship.

“If you talk about something and no one really can relate to you, it can be awkward, especially if you are a kid,” Chism said.

Chism said that she has seen the way the camp benefits youths, from children to teens, dealing with grief or the stresses of a brain tumor diagnosis for a loved one.

“We had campers from ages 5 to 16 last year, and the older kids just naturally attached themselves to the younger kids and formed this great relationship right in front of us,” she said.

While the camp does not claim to provide art therapy, Chism said, the therapeutic effects the campers provide each other are obvious and extensive.

“Just to see the kids talk about it openly and so comfortably, even a 5-year-old, is wonderful, to see them have the support that you know they’re not getting,” Chism said.


In addition to the emotional support, the camp provides a variety of creative activities through partnerships with local organizations. Chism said that MAC provides the camp with workspace and offers the use of its teachers for activities ranging from painting to video game design.

Campers also participated in nature hikes and fossil hunting at Poricy Park last year, she said .

Now in its second year, Camp Jinka has doubled its session length from two to four weeks and expanded its programming, Chism said .

Chism said that campers will garden, practice yoga and take a trip to the Sunnyside Equestrian Center once this summer’s session begins on July 18.

As the arts and education coordinator, Chism said that she organizes the art classes and teachers, regularly communicates with the families and works to identify new families who could benefit from the camp.

Chism said the award would create valuable publicity for the camp and its mission and allow it to reach more families.

“Just getting our name out there and letting people know that we exist is the best part,” she said.

“It was really cool to be recognized, not just to get an award, but to know that we really impacted a lot of people and were able to help themget through this really tough time.”

Chism said the camp is open to anyone with a loved one diagnosed with a brain tumor and offers transportation to families in Monmouth and Ocean counties who might not be able to make the drive to Middletown.

Thework of the Jinka Foundation extends beyond the four weeks of camp in July and August.

“Everymonth we have an art class at Surf Taco in Belmar that the entire brain tumor community can come to, and we can make art and listen to live music,” Chism said.

In October an art exhibition at the MAC will showcase the creative efforts produced at these meetings and the summer camp.


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