Raleigh, N.C. — Anytime a family member is diagnosed with cancer, the coping process quite often becomes a difficult combination of confusion and fear as relatives try to understand the disease and move forward with treatment.
For children who may not fully understand how cancer will impact their life and the life of their loved one, the process can be even harder.
In an effort to help support and educate the children of cancer patients in the Triangle, the Holt Foundation on Saturday teamed up with North Carolina State University and Rex Hospital's Cancer Center to bring the KidsCan! science camp to west Raleigh.
Designed specifically to give kids knowledge about cutting-edge treatments and what they can expect during their parent's fight with the disease, the science camps feature NCSU researchers working on the front lines to find a cure.
Considering the impact cancer has had on their lives, the Holt brothers, Torry and Terrence, have a unique perspective on how cancer can impact children. Following their mother's battle with the disease and death in 1996, the brothers started the Holt Foundation in 1999.
"When you lose a parent, a caretaker to you, someone that you love, it's tough no matter what the age is," Torry Holt said Saturday.
John Martin, 14, was one of more than a dozen participants in Saturday's camp. His father is currently in remission.
"It is absolutely great to help kids understand what their parents are going through and see what scientists are doing to help find a cure," Martin said.
Cole Bates, a 12-year-old who lost his father to cancer five months ago, said the KidsCan! camp helps him develop ways to talk with his friends about his father's death.
"Without KidsCan!, I would probably be one of those kids who just stayed in their bedroom and cried all afternoon," he said. "The morning before you go to school, you have to play out, if someone asks me questions about my dad, what am I going to say."
Dr. John Cavanagh, one of several NCSU researchers on hand for Saturday's camp, said it's important for kids to know that someone is working to cure the disease.
"One of our goals it to help generate the next set of cancer researchers," he said. "If we can inspire one of them, then we've done our job."
KidsCan! also has program Duke Hospital, Alamance Regional Hospital and a hospital in St. Louis, where Torry Holt spent the majority of his career in the NFL.