A Next Step Campference is what you get if you mash up summer camp and a conference: all the fun and all the knowledge without anyone droning at you from the front of a meeting room for hours. Campferences are overnight programs of two to five days created by and for young people living with similar diagnoses. We offer a range of Campferences based on age and diagnosis: cancer, HIV and rare genetic disorders.
Over shared stories, music, laughter and hard-won knowledge from the trenches, you form deep and meaningful connections with other participants, then head back to the “real world” knowing you are part of a tribe that has your back.
Campferences work because we built them in partnership with the experts—and by that we mean both young people and medical professionals. Through workshops, discussions and recreation, the agendas reflect daily life challenges as well as hopes for the future.
At any given Campference, we might hit on topics like:
- How to navigate social situations
- Steps to living more independently
- Disease management at college
- Adherence to medical recommendations
- Resumé writing, interviewing, and much more
So that’s the “conference” side, but what really makes a Campference come alive is the “camp” part. Things like:
- Eating too many s’mores around the campfire
- Marathon card games
- Cutthroat Jenga
- Talking all night with new friends you feel like you’ve known forever
- Unleashing your best Taylor Swift karaoke
- Making and exchanging friendship bracelets
- Spoiling the camp golden retriever
We laugh, we cry, we sing, we learn, we make friends for life. What’s not to like about that? But don’t take our word for it, listen to people who’ve actually been there, done that:
Each moment at Next Step Campference is seized to the fullest. It is the fun memories, such as competing in an ultimate cook-off, and the serious memories, of discussing how a disease affects your transition into adulthood, that really keep you going. Next Step helped me become who I am today, and who I want to be tomorrow.
I attended my first Next Step program. For the first time I was part of a community of people like me. As I heard others share their experiences growing up with HIV, I realized I wasn’t alone. I felt validated, and it changed my life. I’ve got new faith in my abilities.
At my first Next Step Campference I made friends who understood me because we shared a familiar story. No one judged me. And for the first time in a long time, I could be me. Being in this community has inspired me to share my story so that other young people in their cancer journey don’t have to be alone.