The Slater family

Bluebird Cancer Retreat’s mission has always been to serve adults who have been affected by cancer. Founded in 1996, Bluebird is the only retreat opportunity of its kind for those with cancer in the West Michigan region, and one of only 34 retreat centers serving adults with cancer in the nation. “Most cancer retreats focus on children,” said Renee Denslow, Executive Director of Bluebird Cancer Retreats. “But adults have families and the need to serve the entire family was huge. We wanted to do something for the families and asked ourselves what it would look like if adults could attend with their kids.”

Bluebird Family Camp, a new initiative, was created to address this need. The first family retreat will take place July 26-28 at YMCA Camp Pendalouan in Montague, Michigan. The camp will accommodate West Michigan families with children ages 5-17.

“When someone has been diagnosed with cancer, it has an effect on the entire family. This retreat is the perfect opportunity for families to reconnect with one another, be adventurous, and make friends with others on a similar journey.” – Renee Denslow, Executive Director

The camp is for families who have been affected by cancer, whether it’s a parent, guardian, or a child. Together, they will go through the camp experience with other families facing similar situations. The camp gives them the space to digest how cancer is impacting their family, while helping with communication and teaching parents how to talk to their children about what is happening. Parents also learn what to do if their kids are struggling in school or having other adjustment issues.

“The goal of the program is to give the camp experience to families living with cancer,” said Denslow. “The weekends are free and are often the only vacation families might have because debt can be crippling. Parents and children will participate in traditional camp activities along with other Bluebird-led projects and circle gatherings that will help build trust and honest communication about what they are feeling and going through. The camp experience really dials it in for the family. There’s a freeing aspect of being able to talk about what they’re going through as a family and to connect with others in a similar situation.”

Bluebird Cancer Retreats aims to enhance the lives of those experiencing cancer. It provides a dynamic, healing journey toward emotional and spiritual well-being for persons who experience cancer. “We only serve families from West Michigan,” said Denslow. “Most cancer centers are in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, so we wanted to provide something here where they live.”

“The family camp was started with seed money and the grant from the community foundation gave this program the final push,” said Denslow. “Having the support of the GHACF is like the ultimate report card to the community. But this is just the start — now we’re moving forward with our mission. It’s pretty cool that this is coming out of the Tri-Cities.”

Bluebird Cancer Retreats provides all programming 100% free of cost. In addition to supporting Camp Bluebird through this most recent grant, we are pleased to facilitate additional grants from many Donor Advised Funds held here at the GHACF. As well as supporting general operations, these grants have supported annual fundraising efforts and special events.

Learn more about Bluebird Cancer Retreats at

For more information about our grants, visit or contact Holly Cole, Vice President of Grants & Program, at