2015 Quarterly Newsletter
In this issue:
- Teen winter weekend in review
- FUN-raisers recap
- Camp has my heart
- Jim Reilly: board member spotlight
Teen Winter Weekend In Review
One thing kids with cancer rarely get to talk about is their future. Everyone is focusing on the next course of chemo, the next surgery, the next thing that needs to be done to stop the cancer or the next test to make sure the cancer is gone. Either way, many kids haven’t thought about what they want to do when they grow up.
From February 6-8, The Seany Foundation hosted the Teen Winter Weekend (TWW) session of Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky, in which counselors and student leadership from the University of California San Diego kick-started this important conversation with teen campers with cancer and those in remission and their siblings. This brief yet powerful weekend had kids thinking and talking about life beyond cancer and Camp.
Set in the woods of Julian, CA, at YMCA’s Camp Raintree Ranch, about 50 campers rolled up on chartered buses, welcomed by 20 clapping, cheering, and chanting counselors. Road-weary and hungry, campers cracked familiar smiles as they headed past the line of counselors, into the dining hall for dinner. It didn’t take long before this special group of people created the easy, all-inclusive, and accepting atmosphere that’s unique to Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky.
For much of the weekend, it was Camp as usual—albeit with a much more laid back schedule—which meant lots of time for fun activities. Campers played basketball, soccer, Circle Dodgeball, rock-climbing, archery, arts & crafts, and more. And there was never a shortage of laughter and bonding. But when it was time to get to work and talk about the future, campers were all ears and eyes. During the weekend, John Loggins, Sibs Camp Counselor and Director of Community-Based Student Leadership and Learning at UCSD and three of his star student leaders, planted the seed that “College is a four-year camp” to help the kids envision themselves in university setting, making friends and memories while earning an education. John and his team lead fun yet thought-provoking activities, including an improvisation exercise, a mock debate, and a worksheet that helped kids’ highlight their strengths and weaknesses, so that they could begin to pinpoint their goals and figure out what they want to do with this life they have fought so hard for. While college was a main focus of the conversation, other alternatives were discussed. More than anything, the purpose of the weekend was to help the teens discover their interests and talents so that they can start thinking about their life’s path.
When it was time to board the buses for home, campers, hearts filled with love and acceptance, exchanged huge hugs and promises to see each other later in the summer, at Camp. The teens’ heads were also full, buzzing with possibilities for their futures that they may have never thought were possible until now.
Seany’s Happy Camper 5k Run/Walk by Ashlei Gomez: The morning kicked off with some great coffee and conversation with old and new supporters. Excitement grew as race time approached. Checking in, pinning runner’s bib numbers, and seeing all of the different costumes the running teams put together was pretty amazing. We started off the race with a very heartfelt Survivor’s Lap for all childhood cancer survivors and their caregivers. It was really special to be able to run that lap with my sister (a childhood cancer survivor) and my mom, and to celebrate not just surviving cancer, but being surrounded by these amazing people who have gone through the same things as my family. Once the Survivor Lap ended, it was all systems go for the race to start!
People were having such a great time, whether they were walking, jogging, or going full speed ahead, there was a smile on every person’s face. It was magical. At the end of the race, people were ready to get some food and recharge their batteries. Thankfully Suja Juice was there to offer organic green refreshments to replenish runners. And let’s not forget Chef Brian Malarkey who was firing on all cylinders, turning out delicious breakfast burritos! The entire day was memorable and was jam-packed with Camp spirit. For me, the best part was seeing the campers and their families together at the event.
Big Barona Bash by Tiana LaCerva: Guests arrived at the Barona Convention Center dressed to the nines and ready for a good time with great people. After enjoying the California Orchard Fruit and Domestic and International cheese display, lively cocktails, and passed appetizers, attendees perused a raffle table packed with amazing prizes, including a Barona Package complete with hotel, dinner, golf, and spa services; a GoPro Hero camera; and more! Soon after, everyone gathered in the ballroom to enjoy an exquisite gourmet buffet with orange honey glazed salmon, goat cheese chicken, and cashew-crusted lamb chops, just to name a few. After dinner, a five-minute video showcasing Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky played for everyone to see just how much fun campers have each year. After dessert, Dr. Ken Kern hit the stage to perform his hilarious hypnotist show, which had guests rolling in their seats with laughter. Click here for the rest of the article.
Dr. Kern called on 12 volunteers from the audience, including The Seany Foundation’s CEO Mitch Robins, to participate. Once on stage, he hypnotized the volunteers who then unwittingly played the piano to Mozart, drummed to Metallica, swam as fast as they could from sharks, and cried because their puppies ran away. It was absolutely hysterical!
The lighthearted, giggly mood of the evening was captured perfectly in the epically funny photo strips thanks to North County photo booth and their outrageous props. It was a lot of fun to see guests letting loose, wearing wigs and goofy glasses, and falling down laughing. After the event, a shuttle brought guests over to the casino where guests could continue to have their fun.
Camp Has My Heart
Everyone’s hearts were thumping for the 2015 season of Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky at the Camp Has My Heart family mixer event on Sunday, February 15. It was a beautiful day for a picnic at NTC Park, which served as the perfect backdrop for families of both new and seasoned campers to meet and greet each other. Families also got to speak with this year’s incoming Camp staff, and returning volunteers got reacquainted with their fellow staffers.
On hand were GreenGo Grilled Cheese, an absolutely amazing gourmet grilled cheese food truck, and delicious homemade baked goods to fill nearly 80 guests bellies. In true Camp fashion, also served up were fun and games, including table games and an array of Hula Hoops, balls, and Frisbees!
Camp Has My Heart was a complete success, with about 20 families mingling with each other and meeting the staff who will be looking after and caring for their children—some of whom are medically fragile—for a week at Camp. We are so excited to watch the Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky family grow, and this day reminded all of us how much Camp truly has our hearts.
Jim Reilly: Board Member Spotlight
Having experienced cancer through his son’s own battle, Jim Reilly is a natural champion of The Seany Foundation. “Our son, Vince, is a pediatric cancer survivor. Diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at age 11, he went through all the challenges of chemo and the surgeries to remove the tumors. When he attended Resident Oncology Camp, it was a tremendous experience that provided distraction from the treatment and gave him confidence that he could still do the things kids do. In addition, our daughter, Carlee, is a regular attendee of Sibling Camp. Not only have the typical camp experiences been great for her, but the opportunity to spend time with other siblings and share the frustrations and experiences of being a sibling of a child battling cancer have been invaluable.”
Jim, Vice President of Customer Engineering at Qualcomm, has been leading a highly successful team of specially trained engineers at Qualcomm for over 15 years. Needless to say, he is no stranger to dealing with large problems and having to roll with the punches. In 2013, when he learned the camping program his children loved so dearly would be closed down due to a redirection of funding by the American Cancer Society (ACS)—the organization that ran Camp at the time—Jim knew he had a big problem on his hands. Not soon after, Jim learned of The Seany Foundation (TSF) and that it would be taking over operations of Camp. He knew he had to help ensure the long-term success of this incredible program by supporting TSF. In 2014, Jim joined The Seany Foundation’s Board of Directors and continues to volunteer his time and talents so that all children struggling with cancer in and around San Diego have the chance to experience Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky.
Having watched Camp Reach for the Sky change hands from the ACS to The Seany Foundation, Jim has an appreciation for some of the changes he has witnessed. For instance, with TSF, Jim says there is a greater flexibility for reaching out directly for donations from local supporters. And because it is The Seany Foundation’s largest program, Seany’s Camp Reach for the Sky is TSF’s main focus.
He is also happy with the addition of programming throughout the year, which increases and enhances the support the kids receive when Camp isn’t in session. “Camp is amazing, but it is only one week a year.” By adding supplemental programs, Jim says TSF helps further support the kids and their families. “…other events like [Seany’s] Movie Night and Teen Winter Weekend help reinforce the friendships and support groups that are so important to the kids.”
As a longtime Camp supporter, Jim feels strongly about the great work The Seany Foundation is doing to ensure Camp’s ongoing success. He is working along with fellow Board members and TSF leadership not only to raise the funds needed to keep Camp free to all families, but also grow the program so that children throughout southern California can experience this incredible support system.