Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Why do I support LIVESTRONG? For my children

As I get closer to this year's LIVESTRONG Challenge, which marks the end of the 2012 fundraising year, I decided that I would share a little bit more every day about why I support LIVESTRONG.

Today's thoughts focus on my children, specifically, the programs that LIVESTRONG helps come to fruition to support all kids touched by cancer.

When I talk about programs like this, I'm not talking about programs for children currently fighting cancer, though I know LIVESTRONG works with organizations that do. I'm talking about providing support for a population of children that tend to fall between the awkward cracks of not having cancer themselves, but being too young to be considered "caregivers" and therefore can't find that kind of assistance and community. I'm talking about the children of cancer fighters, and those who live in a household or have a close family member who has fought or has been fighting.

Thanks to LIVESTRONG, my daughter was able to attend a 1-week camp called Camp Kesem, at no cost, in Connecticut this summer where she was able to enjoy herself and bond with other kids in the unique, and difficult, situation of having had a parent or loved one fight cancer. (My son was supposed to attend, but unfortunately, the night before, he was told by his doctors that pneumonia, which landed him in the hospital a couple of days later... but that's neither here nor there.)

For my YJ and Jewish friends, yes, that is "Kesem," as in "Magic," in Hebrew. (And, yes, they play gaga!) To quote Camp Kesem's website:
Working with Hillel at Stanford, staff member Iris Rave helped the four student leaders set up Camp Kesem. The group chose the word Kesem, which means “magic” in Hebrew, because its goal was to bring “magic” to families coping with cancer. Since its inception, Camp Kesem has been open to student leaders and campers of any religion, race or ethnicity.Thanks to the hard work of many student leaders, Camp Kesem at Stanford hosted 37 campers at its first one-week summer camp in 2001.

Thanks to their tenacity, and LIVESTRONG's grant, Camp Kesem is able to hold 1-week camps all over the country. LIVESTRONG's contribution includes:
"Through the 2011 Community Impact Project LIVESTRONG will fund the replication of this program at 12 universities with seed funding of $10,000 per campus. These funds will not go directly to the school, but will instead be managed by Camp Kesem for students to use towards camp expenses. Initial trainings and communication will begin in the summer of 2011 with the award covering a 12-month period. The camps funded through this cycle will be held in the summer of 2012. This program is entirely student run, and requires input and work from a broad group of students as well as the university itself to succeed. Students implementing the program would be responsible for additional fundraising for the program to succeed and continue on an annual basis."
The bottom line? My daughter, who fed me grilled cheese sandwiches upon demand, took on the laundry and other household chores, would comfort me after chemo and surgeries, make me special breakfasts every morning I had chemotherapy, snuggle and help keep herself entertained while I was fighting, got to meet other kids who went through similar experiences, bond with other kids who knew how she felt as opposed to having kids that really didn't have a clue try and sympathize, and the chance to feel free enough to express her emotions without fear of hurting anyone else, like me, about how unfair cancer is.

And above all else, she was able to smile. Not be strong for someone else, not show a game face, but just smile and help others smile.

Photos speak 1,000 words. These photos speak words to last a lifetime.
My daughter and her new friend, whom she met on Day 1.They now talk online regularly to keep in touch.

With Jack Bouffard, a fellow LIVESTRONG Leader.

Home at last with her Grumpy!

This is just one parent's experience of how Camp Kesem changed their child's confidence and made her feel like she wasn't in this alone. If it weren't for LIVESTRONG's grants, think of how many kids wouldn't have this chance? With LIVESTRONG's support, think of how many kids, that wouldn't ordinarily get support for their ordeal, can create a community for themselves.

Help continue to support programs like Camp Kesem by making a contribution today to my LIVESTRONG Challenge account.

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