I attended the Face Forward program through Next Step for the first time last summer. I have Mitochondrial Disease which is a progressive energy metabolism disorder that causes multiple organ failure. I was a little hesitant when I first got to the camp, but it was probably one of the best weeks of my life. I met so many amazing kids and after just 4 days it felt like we had known each other for a year. The staff were all so kind and awesome and the environment was incredible, very supportive, encouraging and positive. I love that there is a camp where I could go even with all my medical needs and one where all the other kids understand what it's like to live with a disease that changes your life and still keep on going and living a happy life. I made good friends who I am in regular touch with. Overall it was incredible and I am counting down till the next summer session! Face Forward gets me through the hard times!
I was diagnosed with leukemia in 1990 at the ages of five. I was isolated and stigmatized by classmates and school staff alike. Not until I started attending the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp would I begin to feel comfortable with myself and speaking and smiling.
Then when I turned 16 and too old for camp, Next Step came along and changed me life. As a young adult they gave me confidence and skills I carry through my life, abs today I am able to volunteer with amazing youth!
I have been associated with Next Step since it’s beginning. My daughter, Emily was one of it’s very first members, and actually attended the first retreat on Thompson Island back in June 2004. Em was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 12. She attended an incredible camp which gave her love, support and understanding like no other. When she aged out, we tried in vein to find a place for her. That was a useless, frustrating endeavor. Then wonderful Bill Kubicek founded Next Step. She was no longer alone. Next Step gave her a community when there wasn’t one. Next Step gave her the love, support and understanding she needed. Next Step, with Bill and his wonderful staff, opened another world for her, and for us. Our beautiful Emily lost her battle with her brain tumor, and passed away almost 3 years ago, but Em’s spirit will always be with Next Step. We want to share her story, so you will know how very important Next Step was to Em, and still continues to be for other young adults who are struggling and feeling very much alone.
This is such an incredible organization and I'm so happy I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Face Forward retreat last summer. Being able to witness the bonds and friendships made over those few days was truly amazing. The population Next Step serves is so deserving.
This organization finds a million-and-one ways to bring happiness, joy, and solidarity to the young people they work with. Every time I see a picture of an event, I see a sea of smiles. It takes special people to do this work. The Next Step staff are the real deal.
Next Step is doing a hard job, but you would never know it from the joy and energy they bring to it. It takes a special group of people to make a program so full of life and fun for so many young people.
I work in a nearby office. I became a donor because I watched them work. They are special. Full of imagination, style and compassion. They do the serious work as well as anyone else. But, it is with the kids and the programs they put together, that they really shine. What other group do you know that has a huge inflatable gorilla as a mascot??
Review from Guidestar
If only there was a box to check that exceeded life changing! I am now a professional working to help youth with disabilities become empowered and educated in their own lives- specifically in the health care sector- however- I am also one of the young people that have benefited from the Next Step programs. I have seen the growth of Next Step as it came about as something to fill that void for young adults who age out of recreational programs like camps. At that fragile age of 16-20, not only do many of the resources and supports end, but so does the social interaction, recreation, and as I have sometimes witnessed- hope. Next Step supplements for all of that as it provides a community and an opportunity to both young adults and their care givers to share their stories, learn about new resources, and gain life skills and confidence. I have seen individuals grow and become more empowered in their identities and their outlook on what is possible for their future. This is what our upcoming generations need!! I know I wouldn't be where I am without it.
My experience with Next Steps comes from many perspectives, as I work in the field of supporting young adults with serious illnesses, I have volunteered at Next Step weekends, but most of all, I am a young adult who has been served, and greatly affected by the work Next Step does.
Next Step reaches the large, significant population that often "falls through the cracks" of the systems, and social activities. Once a young person ages out of programs, or things like summer camp, it is easy to lose track of what is positive and empowering in their lives. Next Step makes sure that does not happen. I have watched as young people with what many would view as "significant disabilities" learn new skills, make friends, overcome challenges, and reach goals, all while being 100% comfortable with who they are. It's an invaluable experience to have those opportunities that so many take for granted.
The other piece that I see great value in that Next Step provides is providing support for the caregivers of those young adults who are the ones who have jumped in, when their child ages out of programs and services. This does not happen enough, and is such a huge part of taking care of the health and wellness of both parent/caregiver and young adult.
I commend all the work Next Step does, and am honored to be involved as their journey continues to grow and educate, and support more people.
Review from Guidestar
Next Step has allowed my fellow volunteers and I to make a lasting difference in the lives of so many teens. Their continued support has been extraordinary week after week.
Review from Guidestar
NextStep is a wonderful organization that serves a very underserved medical population: young adults with life-threatening illnesses. As a physician and cancer survivor myself, I know that there are few resources for this group and NextStep is filling a huge gap in support services. It is run by a compassionate and well-educated group who are committed to their cause.
I have benefited from the Next Step Fund organization both as a volunteer and as a participant. It is truly pleasing and appeasing to know that there is a such an organization as this one that deeply cares about the quality of live of the marginalized patients and patient demographic they serve. Next Step Fund is comprised of compassionate, selfless and dedicated staffers who give their all to the population they serve. Without them, these teens will feel doomed and unloved. It is great to know that someone out there cares and loves us unconditionally.
Next Step is one of the best program my daughter ever participated. We have learned so much in their two-day program. I sincerely hope that we can join its program again in the future. Thanks so much! You are the ONE!!
Review from Guidestar