Camp Rainbow gives teens chance to volunteer with kids with cancer

BY DANIELLE SEROTA, Sophomore at Parkway Central High School

For 25 years, Camp Rainbow has been a one of a kind summer getaway for campers and volunteers alike.

“Whoever said Disney World was the best place on Earth was lying,” Parkway North High School senior and Camp Rainbow volunteer Miranda Siler said.


Camp Rainbow strives to create a fun summer environment for children and teens struggling with cancer and other blood-related diseases. The camp, located at the Babler Outdoor Education Center in Wildwood, has served almost 3,000 children ages 4 to 18 years since its founding in 1988.

The camp began when Allen Brockman visited patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The children told him that they wanted badly to attend camp like their friends, but couldn’t as a result of their illness. Following his visit, Brockman was inspired to start a camp for these kids. 

He received assistance from his wife, Ronnie Brockman, the regional advisor of the NFTY-Missouri Valley region at the time.  NFTY, along with the American Cancer Society and the Dream Factory, made significant contributions to the creation of Camp Rainbow. NFTY has remained a strong supporter of the cause ever since. 

Although there are other American camps for kids with cancer, only Camp Rainbow allows teenagers to volunteer. Ronnie Brockman believes that not only campers, but teenage counselors benefit from the uplifting, eye-opening experience that will remain with them throughout their lives.

“It really changes their outlook on kids with cancer,” Brockman said. “It lets them see that their life is not all about the struggle with cancer. It can also be about love, fun, and friendship.” 

Camp Rainbow particularly hits home for Parkway Central High School junior and devoted NFTY member Austin Dubinsky, the Special Projects Coordinator of NFTY-MV. Dubinsky is often described as the “Camp Rainbow Liaison” in his work to raise funds and awareness for the cause.

“My sister had cancer when she was 5 months old and so I have seen what it is like for these kids,” Austin said. “Luckily, she is 10 years in remission, and it just brings me so much joy to see these kids bonding with others who have gone through the same hardships.” 

Austin and Siler, along with many other Jewish high school students, volunteer a week of their summer to be a Camp Rainbow counselor. Both regard the life-changing experience as inspirational and invaluable.

“In Judaism, we are taught to perform mitzvot and give tzedakah,” Austin said. “Camp Rainbow is a great way to do that. Other high school students should get involved in Camp Rainbow because it is a very humbling experience and teaches you to appreciate life.”

For one week every summer, Camp Rainbow allows campers the chance to not be defined by their illness and feel comfortable with themselves. It is a place where everyone understands each other and unite in what they call the “Camp Rainbow Family.”

“These kids live lives we can’t even imagine and the chance to be normal for a week is what they look forward to the entire year,” Siler said. “You can see how much it means to them and so it means a lot to you too.”

To learn more about ways to volunteer or to apply, visit: