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Annual Camp Coho provides grief support for children after cancer losses

October 7, 2016

A cancer diagnosis impacts not only the individuals but entire family and support systems. When a loved one dies, there are few grief support resources available to families living in our rural communities. To address the need for grief support for young children aged 6 to 12, the ANTHC Cancer Program created a one-day grief camp called Camp Coho.

Funded by ANTHC’s Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation, the Cancer Program offered the fifth annual Camp Coho on Saturday, Oct.1 in Anchorage. Eleven children from across the state attended this year’s camp, which provides travel expenses for each child and one adult escort. The camp includes two main activities to support children in understanding their feelings of loss and grief, including participating in healing circles facilitated by Dr. Tina Woods, ANTHC’s Director of Wellness & Prevention, and creating a memory box to honor his or her loved one who has died.

Cancer Program staff devote many hours to preparing for the camp and thank the volunteers and donors that help make it possible. Big Buddy volunteers, who are volunteers matched with each child to provide one-on-one support during the camp, are an integral part of the camp, and share their own experiences of cancer loss. The Cancer Program would also like to thank Project Linus for donating fleece blankets for each child.

Through Camp Coho, children are able to learn that they are not alone and that other children may also experience similar feelings associated with grief. One child said, “I have learned that it’s okay to cry, be mad and be brave.”

Camp Coho is open to Alaska Native children from all parts of the state and through the five years of the camp nearly 100 children have accessed the program. The Cancer Program provides parents with information to connect with regional Behavioral Health Programs for access to additional care for their children if desired after the camp.

The Cancer Program makes Camp Coho resources available for our Tribal health partners and have discussed the possibility of collaborating with partners to host a future Camp Coho in a regional hub community. Regions interested in hosting a Camp Coho are encouraged to contact the ANTHC Cancer Program at

If you are interested in volunteering for Camp Coho or for more information for your child, contact Karen Morgan at

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