Camp Casco is the Righteous Crowd Org of the Week!
The Camp For Cancer Patients and Survivors
With the last full month of summer under way, we are featuring a very special summer camp! Camp Casco is a Massachusetts-based summer camp for children with cancer, free of charge for participants. Through both a one-week day camp or a one-week overnight camp, Camp Casco creates amazing camp experiences that build lifelong connections for childhood cancer patients and survivors.
Read our interview below with Camp Casco's President and CEO Erin Stern.
Why did you decide to start Camp Casco?
In 2014, I co-founded Camp Casco with Dr. Michael Goldberg after realizing that no other summer camp for childhood cancer patients and survivors existed in Massachusetts. Camps like ours give patients and survivors the opportunity to build lasting friendships that provide peer support for the long-term challenges of surviving a childhood cancer (including the physical and emotional scars it can cause). By doing so, we are able to improve survivors’ quality of life. Further, the experience of attending a summer camp can improve self-esteem, boost independence, and build new skills for any child. We make summer camp accessible to kids of all ability levels, to give childhood cancer patients and survivors friendship and FUN!
Who has inspired you in the work that you are doing?
Our campers and their families inspire me day in and day out. Our campers fight through life-changing diagnoses, grueling treatments, and the collateral damage a childhood cancer can leave in its wake, and are true models of resilience, hope, and determination. Their strength and ability to overcome challenges time and time again is truly awesome. I feel incredibly lucky to be in the company of such amazing individuals and will do anything I can to make their journey a little easier.
How would you connect your organization to a Jewish value?
Camp Casco supports the Jewish value of kehillah by creating a supportive community of survivors. Not only do campers form an initial sense of community during the week of camp, they continue to be reunited throughout the year at our free family socials. This allows that feeling of community to be strengthened, providing sources of emotional support year-round and helping campers, siblings, and parents to connect with others who understand.
What’s a story about Camp Casco that is meaningful to you?
I love the way camp challenges kids to set new goals and try new things. One of my favorite examples of this is when camper Declan first joined us at camp a few years ago - his goal was to go down the water slide into the lake for the very first time. Declan is visually impaired and was rightfully very nervous about sliding into a lake he couldn’t see well - who wouldn’t be? I watched as Declan climbed to the top of the water slide, and as he sat nervously contemplating his next move, his fellow campers came to his side one-by-one until the slide was surrounded by kids cheering him on -- completely unprompted by counselors. Declan slid down that slide, meeting his cheering counselor at the bottom as he hit the water, and reached his goal.
What's the best part of your job and why?
CAMP WEEKS! There is nothing better than getting to see the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and planning, when months of activity planning, supply purchasing and inventory management become pies in counselors’ faces and exploding mad science projects. I get to see kids show up to camp quiet and nervous, and leave rowdy and laughing, making plans to see all of their friends again soon. I get to see shy campers blossom as they sing their hearts out onstage at the talent show, with their peers cheering them on the whole time. I get to see kids embrace their true selves and be celebrated exactly as they are - it is truly amazing.
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in your organization or cause?
Our organization is run primarily by volunteers, so we are always looking for individuals to serve as volunteer camp counselors, or give time throughout the year by serving on year-round committees such as camp planning, family outreach, special events or grants!
To learn more about Camp Casco visit www.campcasco.org