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stacytruta@yahoo.com

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The Next Step Fund, Inc.
March 2, 2011

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.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I have spoken with participants in their programs and have seen the improvement in self-esteem, and the bonding among participants.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

increase their ability to provide programming to teens, increase the number of weekends they are able to run program (in short, provide them with more funding!)

MY ROLE:
General Member of the Public & I have donated to NextStep for many years after seeing the results of their work .

Hole in the Wall Gang Fund, Inc.
April 7, 2009

I first arrived at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in 1992 at age 12, when I was deep into treatment for osteosarcoma bone cancer. I arrived bald, on crutches, and very apprehensive. I had been in and out of the hospital for the prior 9 months and had barely been out of my parents’ sight since my diagnosis. We nearly missed the unmarked and hidden driveway tucked into the beautiful woods. As we drove between two large boulders, up a long driveway, and past a sparkling pond, I became more and more nervous. Suddenly, a man in a 4-foot tall cowboy hat and a woman dressed as a clown came into view. They were waving wildly and welcoming us into the parking lot. As soon as we opened the doors and they learned my name, they acted as though they had been specifically waiting just for me. There was cheering, and hugging, and singing, and dancing. I felt incredibly special and incredibly normal at the same time. This feeling is one of the most remarkable gifts that camp provides. I spent four years as a camper at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, and one year as a Leader in Training (junior counselor). Since then I have worked there for three summers and have volunteered as a counselor and in the infirmary. Over these years of privileged involvement I’ve tried to figure out how Camp creates the magical environment of love and acceptance that makes it so unique. It’s still hard for me to describe to people who have not been fortunate enough to visit. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is more than just a summer camp for children with cancer and blood diseases. Camp finds people at the most vulnerable points of their lives- children undergoing invasive and isolating therapy for devastating illnesses, parents facing the most terrifying possibilities imaginable, siblings trying to keep the family stable throughout the struggle- and provides a respite. It is a place where you don’t have to explain your fears and mixed emotions. Where scars are battle wounds to be worn proudly. Where bald heads, crutches, Port-a-Caths, and pillboxes are common accessories. Where tree houses have wheelchair ramps and IV pumps run unnoticed next to bunk beds. By normalizing all of these things, Camp allows children and families in crisis to focus on the simple joys of summer camp. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp provides an exceptional camp experience to children with special needs. Then they go beyond this mission and actually show campers and staff how to make the world a better place. There is a conscious culture of kindness that permeates the environment. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp subtly teaches important lessons about unconditional acceptance, listening, and reserving judgment. And they encourage people to take theses lessons and share them with the outside world after they leave. I for one am a better person for having been involved in The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and I firmly believe that the world is a better place due to its work.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my own self confidence and the way I view my experience with illness. I look back on my bone cancer as a very challenging time, but one that also gave me many new opportunities and a unique understanding of other people. The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp helped to shape that perspective.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the large community of people who love and believe so firmly in the mission.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

energetic, thoughtful, fun-loving, compassionate people.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

provide these badly needed services to more families and children throughout the year.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008

MY ROLE:
Client Served & I was a camper for many years; I worked for several summers as a camp counselor, and I have volunteered in the medical infirmary.