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July 1, 2014 at 8:55 PM

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Kids touched by cancer bond at Camp Sparkle


LINDSEY WASSON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Wyatt Tippett, 9, counselor Cathryn Casey, 17, and Mila "Miss Awesome" Hyra, 10, try to figure out the beginning lyrics of "Y.M.C.A." as they sing on their last day of Camp Sparkle. Wyatt's mother is a breast-cancer survivor. Mila's mother died from breast cancer 4 years ago.

LINDSEY WASSON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

At front, Luci Haugen, 10, in blue, and Savannah Dietz, 6, make a break for it as one of several three-legged races starts on the last day of Camp Sparkle at The Golf Club at Newcastle on Friday.

LINDSEY WASSON / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Camp counselor Bailey Callahan, 17, laughs with Cadia Green-St. John, 7, whose mother has breast cancer, on their last day of Camp Sparkle at Gilda's Club on Capitol Hill on Friday, June 27, 2014. Callahan's younger sister Maddy passed away in November 2009 at age 8 after a year-long battle with acute myeloid leukemia.

On the last day, Camp Sparkle Director Michelle Massey asked how campers were feeling. "Sad," many said -- because Friday was the end of camp. They'd spent just five days together, but their shared experiences with cancer allowed them to form close bonds.

Massey says the camp "allows them to be with other kids in a similar situation, and they get love and support from each other. "

The free day camp run by Gilda's Club is for children 5 to 11. Some have cancer; others live with somebody who has it or have lost a loved one to the disease.

There's singing, games, art therapy, craft projects and a daily field trip. Last week, campers visited Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle Chocolate Factory and the The Golf Club at Newcastle, where they met former Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate during his Bryce Fisher & Golden Tate Celebrity Golf Tournament, which benefits Gilda's Club.

The camp is working with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on a study of the emotional-health effects of the program, Massey said. Researchers hope to show that it helps reduce emotional trauma from a cancer diagnosis.

Camp Sparkle has two more sessions this summer, July 21-25 at the Meredith Mathews YMCA, in Seattle, and Aug. 11-15 at the Morgan Family YMCA in Tacoma. For more on Gilda's Club and Camp Sparkle go to: gildasclubseattle.org.

For more photos, visit the gallery.

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