Kathy’s Vision truly helps children cope

KINGSTON — Kathy Blesie wants to make sure kids who have parents with life-threatening diseases know how to cope with the extra stresses that come with such illnesses.

Blesie would know.

Her family has had to experience such distress since she was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.

Inspired by her coping experiences as well as learning from others, Blesie has created a non-profit organization called Kathy’s Vision. From this project, Camp Inwa was developed and dedicated to helping children of parents with such diseases.

On the weekend of Aug. 23, 24 and 25, Camp Inwa will take place at Challenge Northwest in Fall City, just east of Seattle. Inwa stands for “I’ll Never Walk Alone” — an idea suggested by Blesie’s cousin.

“It’s not scary to kids, like using the word ‘coping’ or ‘such,’” Blesie explained.

The project was inspired by several factors, including her husband’s experience of losing his father at age 10.

He didn’t know how to deal with the death when he was younger and just went into his own world, Blesie said. Her husband had a similar experience when she was diagnosed.

“If he had (been taught coping skills) when he was younger, he would have been able to cope with (the cancer) better,” she said, explaining that the purpose of the camp is to teach coping skills at a young age.

Kids, ranging from ages 7-18, will participate in activities “that they perceive is above their abilities,” she said. After the activities, the group will sit down and discuss how they felt about the project, what they learned, how they did it, and how it can be applied to the situation at home.

For example, Blesie mentioned the kids will build a shelter. From that exercise, the kids can discuss the basics about the shelter and its purpose, while also associating the situation to their own home structure. Other activities include hiking, exploring rivers and wetlands and learning lost overnight survival training.

“(They will) mainly relate back to what they are doing, but not force conversation,” she explained.

Blesie said she was concerned about holding an overnight camp at first but realized that’s the only way kids will be able to learn the skills and relate to each other. The camp is open for 16 participants.

While they’re not exactly “camp experts,” Blesie and another member of the project group, Dianne Johnston, researched other camps, such as Camp Indianola and Camp Burton in Vashon Island for structure ideas on how to run the event. Challenges Northwest, run by Jerry and Marti Neyland, impressed Blesie and her board with their set up. The cost of the camp is free because some $3,500 has been donated that will not only cover expenses for the initial gathering but set the organization up for another camp as well.

“(Jerry and Marti) teach the skills we are talking about,” Blesie said, noting that Jerry Neyland has also participated in Outward Bound, a national program that leads outdoor-based adventures.

“The main goal for kids is to have fun,” Blesie noted. “If they get something else out of it, that’s great. But it gets them away from the stress of every day life.”

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