Our mission is simple: to overcome the social isolation experienced by children in treatment for cancer.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it is important to keep the child connected to school and friends. Research shows that children who felt more supported from their classmates during cancer treatment were “less depressed, less anxious, and had higher self-esteem” than children who did not feel supported by classmates (Suzuki and Kato, 2003).
Hopecam, is a 501c3 non-profit charity with the mission of using voice over Internet technology to help children with cancer overcome the burden of social isolation. By virtually connecting these children with their friends over a video conferencing application, Hopecam decreases the loneliness and anxiety they experience during this frightening time. We provide the child with a tablet computer equipped with a webcam, Internet access in the home if the child is without, then work with the child's school to persuade them to establish a regular connection with the child during which the child can participate in classroom activities, and see and talk with their friends.
Although the Hopecam Connection is often used by classroom, homebound and hospital teachers to provide instruction, we consider this an added benefit. Hopecam’s mission is to allow children to socialize, sharing the normal events and conversations of childhood from celebrating a birthday to checking out who has lost a tooth. Our goal is to bridge the social divide between children during this frightening time and ultimately ease the transition back to school. Other benefits of Hopecam include being used by the child’s medical team to check in remotely. For children who are being treated far from home, Hopecam provides a way to stay in touch with loved ones and support networks.
Lalita K. Suzuki, PhD, and Pamela M. Kato, PhD, EdM (2003). Psychosocial Support for Patients in Pediatric Oncology: The Influences of Parents, Schools, Peers, and Technology. Retrieved from Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, Vol 20, No 4 (July- August), 2003: pp159-174
When entrepreneur Len Forkas’ son Matt was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2003, one of the first side effects was that Matt could not go to school. At the toughest time in his life, Matt could not be with his friends and his friends could not be with him. Forkas put computer and a webcam in his son’s bedroom and in his 3rd grade classroom. Seeing the remarkable change in Matt’s attitude and outlook persuaded Forkas to found Hopecam so that other children could stay connected while being treated for cancer.
Back then, video conferencing applications had not been invented and most computers were desktops costing more than $1,000 each. Hopecam helped as many children as it had resources. Over time, Hopecam has developed an expertise in working with schools—persuading them to connect with children by overcoming red tape and fears about “exposing” school children to other children with serious illnesses.
In the ensuing years, voice over Internet protocols have become easy to use, and more important, computers have become tablets that are significantly lower in cost and robust needing much less IT support. These advances in technology and lower costs have made it possible for Hopecam to reach out to significantly more children at a cost of about $1,000 per child. Simultaneously word has spread among the pediatric cancer community about Hopecam’s program.
In calendar year 2017, Hopecam reached a milestone and has connected over 1,500 children throughout the United States and abroad.