For the first time, Echo Hill Outdoor School partnered with Survivor Summit this July to offer intensive week long outdoor experiences for cancer survivors. Hosted in collaboration with the Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the program brought 8 survivors ranging from 18-24 years old into the woods and out on the water, challenging their comfort zones and supporting adventures in the Chesapeake environment.
Survivor Summit, founded in 2011, was created to help cancer survivors overcome challenges, be inspired and form lifelong relationships through adventures in the outdoors. Past Survivor Summits have invited survivors and their supporters to several trips to Mt. Kilimanjaro, where 100% of participants summited the mountain and raised over $500k toward cancer survivorship along the way. The new Echo Hill Outdoor School program is entirely at sea level but focuses on providing similar ways to break down barriers and help participants experience the wonder of the outdoors.
“The survivors on this trip have already scaled so many mountains in their lives,” says Dr. Matt King, whose family created Survivor Summit and who accompanied the survivors on their week at Echo Hill Outdoor School. “Echo Hill pushes the survivor’s boundaries and provides challenges that test their resolve while building confidence—they are the motivators, storytellers, and leaders of the adventure for Survivor Summit.”
Survivor participant Amir Neyazi, 24, agrees. Watching his friends wading chest-high through the swamp, and scrambling over a thick mud flat as they head for a rinse in the Chesapeake Bay, Neyazi says he likes getting out of his comfort zone. “Once you go into the swamp,” Neyazi says, “Nothing matters. You just go all in.”
Neyazi joined seven other survivors, some in active treatment, some in remission, for a week on Echo Hill Outdoor School’s zipline and adventure course, workboat fleet and extensive Bay woodlands and swamps. Joined by Dr. King and two psychosocial staff from the Cancer Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, they were led through on-the-water experiences, forest hikes and swamp walks by Echo Hill Outdoor School’s instructor/naturalists in the pilot program.
Betsy McCown, associate director at Echo Hill Outdoor School, was thrilled at the week’s success. “We’ve had a tradition here at Echo Hill of working with children and adults who might not have a chance to experience the outdoors because of physical challenges, like the Echo Hill Outdoor School Heart Camp. It was our honor to partner with Survivor Summit and continue that tradition. It’s been an incredible week for all of us and I think the participants feel the same way.”
Echo Hill Outdoor School was established in 1972 in Kent County, Maryland.Today, more than 6,700 students and teachers from public and private schools annually visit EHOS School in our residential outdoor education programs, adventure programs, camps and day programs from March through mid-December. For more information, go to ehos.org or call 410-348-5880.