A huge shout out to our staff members who brought home the gold and raised $50 FTK!
Childhood cancer affects so many of us. Here at UADM, we hold this disease close to our hearts and fight for the kids who can’t. Kaitlin Burnash, a member of the outreach team, spent her summer volunteering with children who have cancer. Check out her inspiring story below!
Childhood cancer was always a cause I've held close to my heart for many years. However, it never meant so much to me until I spent this past summer at Camp Okizu, a camp for children with cancer and their families. When I began my work there this past May, I fully expected to be changed in some way or another but little did I know exactly how much I would indeed change as soon as I made my way through the green gates to a place I now consider home. I had the privilege of working alongside some of the most resilient, hard working, loving, dedicated, compassionate, and selfless co-counselors on the planet, all who had overcome and triumphed over more in the first twenty or so years of their lives than I could comprehend or imagine.
On the surface, there is nothing extraordinary about Camp Okizu. It is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas on 500 acres that include rolling hillsides, an archery range, sturdy cabins, a lake, and miles of gorgeous hiking trails. But it is truly the most magical, special, and wonderful place I have ever been to. The moments of magic occur at mealtime where we all get to share our stories, our pasts, dance, and laugh together. At nighttime looking straight up at the stars with my cabin groups. And on our last day of camp when we honored and remembered all those who could not be with us today but who live on in our hearts and truly solidified the family we had become.
I spent the summer working with eight to ten year old girls, some of the most beautiful little girls I had ever known. All of them carried cancer's scars whether it was their shaved heads, physical limitations from brain tumors and neuroblastomas, scars from incisions, or a multitude of psychological scars. Yet each one of them had a tremendous capacity for love, complete faith that cancer was part of God's journey for them, and more joy for life than anyone I had ever met. On the last day of each camp session, we all got the opportunity to share our cancer stories and I had some of my girls share their experiences of being in the hospital for more than four months or watching their siblings pass away before their eyes. Others shared about dear friends who they used to go to camp with but who were no longer with us but who were some of the most loving and so selfless people they had ever met that they wanted to ensure they would never be forgotten. And it was in these moments that I truly realized how insignificant my own stresses or worries were and how fleeting life can be. Their ability to take all the bad in their life and face life with so much joy, courage, and optimism inspires me to this day. In this one summer I truly learned that in saving others you are indeed saving yourself in ways you cannot even comprehend.