Our objective is to provide the kind of peer support recommended by the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health for cancer patients and their families while also providing a free, fun, recreational respite from the stressful daily routine of coping with cancer.
Born of necessity in 1982, the Orange County Foundation for Oncology Children and Families (OCF-OCF) is a 501 (c)(3) not for profit, volunteer-run organization providing year-round recreational and social activities designed to foster supportive relationships for pediatric cancer patients and their families. As the leading organization in Orange County for pediatric cancer patients and their families, we strive to turn fear and isolation into support, friendship, and hope through year-round free activities, including our “World's Greatest Camp."
In 1982 a group of parents whose children were receiving treatment for cancer at CHOC were lamenting the fact that their children were missing out on so many of the normal activities that their friends were participating in. They pulled together resources to organize a group of 21 kids and 23 parents who made their way up into the mountains near Big Bear. The kids, along with a dedicated handful of volunteer counselors, were separated into cabin groups by age and gender. Moms and Dads were also separated into their own cabins. According to founder Ron VanWinkle, “the whole idea was to separate the parents from the kids; to let the kids run around and be kids without having to worry about others staring at their bald heads (from chemotherapy), or remarking about their frail conditions.” That first camp was so successful that they committed to doing it again and formed a non-profit corporation in order to be able to raise money so that cost would not hinder anyone from participating. Other activities were later added throughout the year in order to help families stay in touch and nurture the supportive relationships formed at camp. To this day, OCF-OCF is an entirely volunteer-run organization.
Each year in Orange County over 100 children are newly diagnosed with some form of cancer. Combined with children already undergoing treatment, hundreds of families share a common challenge as they are all dealing with stresses that are unimaginable to people who have never been touched by childhood cancer. Medical, financial, emotional, and social hardships can be overwhelming for patients, parents and siblings during and after treatment. With this in mind, the Orange County Foundation for Oncology Children and Families (OCF-OCF) provides support activities, free of charge, to over 400 family members each year and with continued support,we hope to reach out to even more.
Our main goal is to be able to provide The World's Greatest Camp for pediatric oncology patients and families twice per year, in June and September, at no cost to families. Our budget for each camp is approximately $25,000. Each year, funding permitted, we have a minimum of 2 camps and a holiday party, bringing our monetary needs for the year to around $60,000. Funds permitting, we would love to be able to bring back some other recreational activities throughout the year. These include "The World's Coolest Camp" specifically for teens as well as trips to theme parks and sporting events.
The beneficiaries of our project encompass all ages and income levels. Our only requirement is that the family lives in, or the child with cancer is treated in, Orange County, CA or a nearby area. If a family feels that our organization can assist them, we want to offer help. As a community-based organization we have the flexibility to meet the needs of all kinds of families. Grandparents or aunts and uncles can fill in for parents when necessary. We can welcome families whose diagnosis is not technically cancer, but who endure the same difficult treatment regimens. We can always make accommodations for children and adults with all types of special needs; from diabetes to Down syndrome, from infants on special diets to grandparents with oxygen tanks. There are similar camp programs for children with cancer and their families, but OCF-OCF is the only one developed and run by the parents of the cancer patients. We understand the impact a cancer diagnosis has on the entire family. OCF-OCF is unique in making no distinctions whatsoever between patients and siblings at our events. They are all made to feel equally special. Many organizations do wonderful things for kids with cancer, but their siblings often feel left out. This only adds to the strain on an already stressed family. We address the needs of patients, siblings, parents, and of the family as a whole. We are also unique in welcoming those in all phases of the disease – on treatment, in remission, in relapse, “cured," or bereaved.
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