Chilly nights by the campfire, sunny days by the shore, and lots of moments that filled my heart. These were the moments at UKANDU family camp. UKANDU is a non-profit organization that supports families and children navigating childhood cancer. This past week, I was honored to join the children, families and staff at family camp. I settled into a week of staff training around trauma-informed work, parent-led groups and tons of support for families.
There’s really nothing quite like it. To see children giggle, play and experience camp, who might not otherwise have the opportunity, is magical. No one gawks at the bald beauties (a fond camp reference) or children in wheelchairs, because they all know and understand the experience deeply. Instead, they embrace silly hats, tutus and whacky-wear as a way to prompt all of us to be fully present. Yes, reminders of illness are present as children receive medication or leave camp for a few hours for treatment. But mostly, it’s pure joy. Campfire skits, polar plunges, dancing, boat rides and obstacle courses are enjoyed by all of the campers. Parents feel fed and cared for, beginning each morning with a group chat (my honor!) and taking part in camp activities throughout the day. Thursday night hosted a beautiful dinner just for parents followed by a fun dance for all – yep, I danced too – check out my name tag! DQ, aka, Dancing Queen or my favorite, Dairy Queen (I love a good blizzard!).
I met so many beautiful families, volunteers and staff and felt honored to wear a red sweatshirt with other staff. Family camp reminded me to hold onto moments of hope, sit with sadness and fear, and dive deeply into laughter and silliness. These are the moments that shape us. The volunteers and staff have been taking part at UKANDU for years, some for over a decade. The camp has a rich history that can be felt in well-known songs and welcoming hugs for returning campers. A beautiful complexity is also felt from families who’ve lost children to cancer and return to support other children or parents who may be struggling; or simply return to be part of this beautiful community. Every aspect of camp is intentional and beautiful.
This is me receiving my red sweatshirt!
Please check out UKANDU and the amazing work these folks are accomplishing! Sign up to volunteer or donate to this incredible organization. Please consider helping this incredible organization remind kids, You Can Do Camp, with cancer!
Friends, please hop over and listen to the podcast this week. My guest, Dr. Susan Davis shares practical, life-saving tools and ideas. And be sure you’re subscribed to my podcast so that you’ll receive a dose of connection in August as our programming shifts and we dive deep into ways to be Champions in the lives of children!