Why the Yus Support #GivingTuesday
For our last installment of our #GivingTuesday blog, we’ve asked one of our dear families, the Yus, from Los Angeles, CA to share why they support #GivingTuesday this year. The Yus have attended Camp Kesem at UCLA since 2005. Elena aka 1:07 is now a counselor at Camp Kesem at UCLA and Dara aka Bamboo is excited for yet another summer at camp!
My husband George was diagnosed in 2004 with a non-smoker’s lung cancer, Bronchio-Alveolar Carcinoma. My daughters at the time were only three and nine years old. I was at such a loss as to how to support the girls and their understanding of cancer, as I was at a loss of understanding how to live each day with knowing he was dying. He’d been given only 6-12 months to live. I was struggling trying to search the internet for the best cures, doctors, and treatments. Unfortunately, my daughters weren’t getting the support they greatly needed to understand what was happening to our family. Then, through the Simms Mann UCLA cancer therapy center, I was directed to Camp Kesem UCLA. It has truly been the best thing to come out of this tragedy we had to live through.
My older daughter, Elena (1:07 at camp) started attending the UCLA camp the first year it was offered in 2005. She was extremely shy and the first year she attended, she only listened at cabin chat. Most of the kids in her cabin had moms with breast cancer, so she didn’t feel comfortable talking about her dad. But, over the next few years, she came to understand that she was in an extremely understanding, and loving community family, and started to speak more at cabin chat. Over the years, Camp Kesem has given Elena the opportunity to contribute in many ways. The summer after junior year of high school, Elena and another CK camper, Nicole spent hours meeting with counselors, talking to other camp kids, and working with Camp Kesem National to form a CIT program. The program was rolled out the next summer, and Elena was able to continue with Camp Kesem. After graduating from high school, Elena was accepted to UCLA where she is now a Camp Kesem counselor, and can give back to all the kids who are going through the same experience she had.
When George passed away in 2007, Dara (Bamboo at camp) was six, and Elena was thirteen. They were actually on the way back from camp, when the hospice nurse told me that I couldn’t leave the house to pick them up. After a quick call, two Camp Kesem counselors dropped them back to the house, and were there to support the girls and our family when George died only fifteen minutes after the girls got home. We had a very large memorial a month later with over 600 participants. But some of the most beloved attendees were the sixteen Camp Kesem counselors who came to support our family. It really was so amazing when I saw them walking up the ramp to join us. They had put together special photo collages for the girls with pictures from camp. Dara still has hers in her room on the shelf of special mementos.
Over the years, I’ve been extremely impressed that, in addition to helping kids and their families, the camp trains student leaders in marketing, fundraising, and development. They are given extensive training in how to deal with these very different and special situations that the young children are experiencing at home. As the girls have grown, the counselors have made strong impressions on them in many ways. We have known counselors through camp who have become inspirational in other parts of my daughter’s lives. They have provided friendship, babysitters, cooking partners, inspiration through dance, and support at special events. Camp Kesem counselors have been involved with every part of my daughters’ lives after their father passed away. They are not just friends, they are family.
Elena and Dara absolutely love this camp, they look forward to it as the highlight of their year. It is rare that kids at their schools can truly understand what they’ve lived through with their dad: chemo, radiation, pain medications, and ultimately, death. At Camp Kesem, they admit, they feel comfortable with everyone, they are no longer the “odd man out.”
It is a charity that we feel so strongly about because they truly understand the impact that cancer has on families. We have built a community family, and hope that the other three million children in the US that have a parent with cancer will soon be able to find the joy that Camp Kesem has brought to our family.
We hope you’ll support Camp Kesem on this upcoming #GivingTuesday and #BigKidsGive event. You’ll find my youngest daughter, Dara on facebook/DaraTheBowGirl with her friends giving their support.