Special News from COCAcon 2019

2019 Spirit of COCA-I Recipient

Joey Cavazos, Camp Discovery

Joey has been a part of camping for 30+ years, starting initially as a counselor and working his way up to the director level. As Director, Joey has expanded programs to include weekend retreats for families, including those that have lost children, and in-hospital camp programs. Joey is  a fun-loving, yet no-nonsense leader among the mostly-volunteer staff, and sets high expectations and helps volunteers and campers achieve them. Joey's tireless dedication to camp and the children and families, and on an even broader level to COCA-I and the children and families it serves, makes Joey incredible choice for this award


2019 Camp Spirit Recipients

Region 1

Chris Eldridge

Camp Ta-Kum-Ta

Region 2

Dave Wessell

 Kay's Kamp

Region 3

Carole Royer

Special Days Camp

Region 4

Talia Johnson

Camp Rap-A-Hope

Region 5
Tommy West
Camp Discovery
Region 6
Sean O"Neill
Camp Enchantment
Region 7
Heather Olsen
Camp Magical Moments
Cancer Camp for Kids
Region 9
Allison Andlar
Camp Quality
Northern Ontario


Friday November 15th 8:30 am - 10:00 am
Tom Rosenberg
Tom RosenbergPresident/CEO American Camp Association

Tom Rosenberg has a distinguished career in the camp profession and a long resume of service to ACA. He most recently served as the executive director of Camp Judaea in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Prior to Camp Judaea, Tom spent more than two decades with Blue Star Camps in North Carolina, most of those years as a director.

Tom is a past national treasurer and board member of the ACA as well as a past board president and treasurer of ACA Southeastern. A founding board member of the North Carolina Youth Camp Association, Tom was awarded the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural Camp Industry Leadership Award as well as the American Camp Association’s National Honor Award and ACA Southeastern’s Distinguished Service Award.

With an educational focus in business, Tom graduated with distinction from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California with an MBA and from the AB Freeman School of Business at Tulane University with a BS in Management. He is also a graduate of ACA’s Camp Director Institute.

Tom melds his experience in the camp profession with business expertise, inspirational vision, successful fundraising experience, professional agility, organizational skills, and strategic focus.

Tom, his wife Pam Sugarman, and their son Daniel live in Atlanta, Georgia


Saturday November 16th 8:30 am - 10:00 am
Jim Cain, Ph.D.
Jim Cain, Ph.D.Teamwork & Teamplay

Dr. Jim Cain is the author of 16 team and community building texts, including the classic Teamwork & Teamplay, A Teachable Moment, Find Something To Do! and his latest book, 100 Activities that Build Unity, Community & Connection. He is also the creator of the innovative T&T Training Cards.

He has traveled to all 50 states and 31 countries (so far), sharing his knowledge on subjects ranging from teamwork and leadership to creative problem solving and trust building.

His train-the-trainer programs are legendary and his conference keynotes/playnotes are active, engaging and tremendously fun.

With regard to Jim's group facilitation skills, Tom Leahy of NCCPS remarked, "Jim, you are a Jedi Master!"

Teamwork & Teamplay
468 Salmon Creek Road
Brockport, NY 14420
Phone: 585-637-0328

Grief and Bereavement Pre-Conference

Thursday November 14th 8:30 am - 3:30 pm

Keynote - 8:30 am - 10:00 am

Workshops 10:15 am - 3:30 pm

$50 Preconference Fee

Andrea Warnick, RN, MA Registered Psychotherapist
Andrea Warnick, RN, MA Registered Psychotherapist

Helping families, professionals, volunteers, and communities support grieving children, youth and adults

Andrea Warnick is an educator, registered psychotherapist, nurse, and thanatologist. She specializes in ensuring that adults, children and youth have access to caring and informed support when experiencing the serious illness, dying, or death of someone close to them. She has learned through her 20 years of experience that such support goes a long way towards helping individuals of all ages integrate their grief in a way that allows them to thrive in life.


Good Grief: The Art of Juggling Joy and Sorrow

Grief is a natural and healthy part of the human experience yet in our contemporary society it is an experience permeated by myths and misconceptions. While it can be challenging enough to know how to best support others and even ourselves during life’s windstorms, knowing how to best support children  often proves to be an even greater challenge. Children and youth with cancer are not only grieving the impact of their illness, but may also be grieving other losses such as the separation of parents or the death of a friend who was at camp last year, but not this year. When children and youth come to camp – so does their grief. This plenary presentation will explore ways of juggling life’s joys and sorrows by identifying practical tips for supporting a healthy grief process in ourselves, our colleagues, and our campers. 

Morning Workshop

Don’t Know what to Say! Strategies for Supporting Grief in Children and Youth
This session will build on the morning’s “Good Grief” keynote presentation by diving deeper into strategies for supporting a healthy grief process in campers, as well staff and volunteers. Common well-intended but misguided grief support strategies, such as praising and “story-topping” will be identified. Together we will explore, identify, and practice strategies that do tend to help people of all ages navigate their most difficult times in life including the art of “Bearing Witness”.

Afternoon Workshop

“Grief Soup” is a Camp Activity!

Play and creativity have a unique capacity to help children and youth understand their feelings and to develop skills to help them navigate these feelings in healthy ways. The camp environment provides endless opportunities to make learning about grief fun. In this session a wide range of easy to use (and modify) creative ideas will be shared including activities that foster emotional literacy such as “feelings Jenga”, activities that facilitate understanding of cancer such as “You can’t catch cancer”, and activities that facilitate the processing of grief such “sponge balls”. Bereavement-specific activities will also be shared, including ways to introduce the activities and support the campers through the activities. 



Friday November 15th- Saturday November 16th

Free to all attendees

(Join in for one or more sessions, or the entire 2 days.)

Spend two days with two of the best, brightest, and most innovative professionals in the camp industry!

Scott Arizala & Sarah Kurtz McKinnon will host COCAcademy, an immersive series of four double-length workshops:

Friday’s COCAcademy

  • Leadership, supervision, & management: Positive Management
  • Can I talk to you for a minute? Difficult management conversations

Saturday’s COCAcademy

  • Staff training: Teach staff how to think, not what to do
  • Camper behavior: Why do they do what they do?!?


What is the COCAcademy?
Something New! Something Just for You!

COCAcademy is an invigorating departure from traditional conference tracks. Each workshop will turbocharge your inner expert by immersing you in challenging scenarios, simultaneously led by two dynamic camp professionals, Scott Arizala and Sarah Kurtz McKinnon..
Who Should Attend?
Directors, Staff, Volunteers, Counselors...  Everyone!
Any and all participants of COCA-I! It is designed to meet the learning needs of both beginners and more experienced camping professionals.
It’s for anyone interested in training and leading staff who will help transform the lives of children with cancer.
What Can I Expect?

Content Designed Just for Oncology Camps!

COCAcademy  workshops were designed after consulting with COCA-I members and the COCA-I directors. They offer cutting-edge content in leadership, emotional intelligence, social skills, communication, and programming. COCAcademy facilitators also make spontaneous decisions to cover novel topics based on a group’s unique dynamics. Interested? Click Here for more detailed information.

11 Medical/CEU Eligible
12 Operations
8 Programming
6 Child Development
5 Fundraising
6 Staff Development