Youngsters who'll gather at Camp Hobe this week are just like any other kids.

Except they have cancer.But the life-threatening disease won't be the focus of their outing in Camp Red Cliff in Ogden Canyon.

Instead, the camp's goal is to give children with cancer and their siblings a fun-filled week free from concerns about their disease.

"The kids are so busy and active that you wouldn't know they were cancer patients, other than some of them don't have their hair," said Tyra Feltman, child-life director at Primary Children's Medical Center.

Often viewed as "different" on the street, the patients at camp are surrounded by loved ones who are trying to understand their pain.

Camp Hobe, an Indian word meaning hope, is now in its fifth season. It is sponsored by the children's hospital and the American Cancer Society. Much of the cost this year is offset by a grant from actor Paul Newman.

"The purpose of the camp is to give kids the camping experience - and a time for play," said Feltman, who coordinates the arts and crafts and activities schedule. "We try to make it as normal as possible."

For siblings, it's an opportunity to meet other boys and girls who live with the stresses and uncertainty experienced when a brother and sister has cancer.

"Siblings are separated from parents a lot when the child is in treatment," said Susanne Judd, whose 13-year-old daughter, Robyn, was diagnosed three years ago as having leukemia.

The camp gives siblings a chance to be with other kids who have felt the same neglect and difficulty adjusting to their parents' financial and emotional stress during their children's serious illness, she said.

Three of Robyn's four siblings will be accompanying her to camp this year. Her brother John, 17, will go as a junior counselor; James, 11, and Marianne, 9, will be participants.

Acceptance of campers was on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to availability of space. To accommodate the increasing numbers of applicants - more than 100 this year, compared with 15 in 1984 - two sessions will be held. The first will be July 31-Aug. 3. The second will be Aug. 3-6.

Last year only one session of camp was held and there was a shortage of junior counselors. This year Camp Hobe has 15 junior counselors - the largest number since its inception. The counselors are volunteers between ages of 15 and 18 years old.

Patients and their siblings must be between six and 14 years old and be within no more than one year off treatment.

Unlike other summer camps, a qualified pool of personnel, including oncology nurses and other professional staff, are available to administer medications to the campers.

But for the most part, the kids, some who are only well enough to come for a single day, live as normally as possible - swimming, playing softball, volleyball, doing ceramics, skits, singing, story-telling, videotaping and sitting around the campfires.

Although there are no minicancercourses taught, Feltman said, often they have their own discussions about what they have gone through. "But it's usually in an upbeat, positive, sharing way."

Parents say these spontaneous discussions provide strength for the kids because they find they have something they can share.

Friendships the youths make are binding - but frequently short-lived.

"The first year I went I made a really good friend," Robyn said. "But her brother died of cancer."

Robyn, whose disease is now in remission, knows the chance of that happening again is good.

"We realize life is frail and you can take it for granted, and then it's gone," said Robyn's mother, smiling at her rosy-cheeked daughter - now a picture of health. "It wakes you up."

Feltman added, "When I see the children, they remind me of the importance of the quality of life, and that's what's it's all about."