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Okizu

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Camps, Cancer, Counseling, Mental Health, Philanthropy, Philanthropy, Voluntarism & Grantmaking Foundations, Sports

Mission: The mission of Okizu is to provide peer support, respite, mentoring, and recreational programs to meet the needs of all members of families affected by childhood cancer.

Results: When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the lives of both the patient and the entire family are changed forever. Children who are diagnosed with cancer miss a normal childhood. Their illness, treatment, and complications can keep them from enjoying activities that are often taken for granted. And yet, like all children, they need the opportunity to grow, experiment and discover independence. Siblings, who have a higher incidence of non-adaptive and at-risk behaviors, need support to maintain self-esteem and to manage anxiety and conflicting feelings. Parents, whose emotional and financial resources are severely strained, also need respite, encouragement and the opportunity to share information with other families who have had to make similar treatment and strategic decisions. Those who have tragically lost their children to cancer greatly benefit from being able to share their experiences and remember their loved ones with others who are also coping with the death of a child. Even long after the initial phase of treatment is concluded, young adults affected by childhood cancer also struggle to live normal lives and face their future with courage and hope. Situated on 500 beautiful acres near Lake Oroville, Okizu's unique approach allows us to address the emotional, psychological, and social needs of each family member, which are often neglected by traditional medical providers. One unique aspect of camp is grouping children together in all stages of treatment and recovery. By doing this, and not limiting the amount of summers a child can attend, we are able to provide a built-in peer support network that allows newly diagnosed campers to interact with other campers, similar in age and interest, who have already been through what they're currently forced to experience. Campers provide hope and encouragement to each other, simply by sharing a meal or a canoe ride together. As one camper so aptly put it, "Camp Okizu is my gas station. It fills me up and helps me get through the year." Tragically, more than 1,500 children in California are diagnosed with cancer every year. Unfortunately, the diagnosis of cancer in children is expected to continue to increase, between 1-4% a year. On a positive side, survival rates have increased dramatically during this same time period so that 70% of the children will survive. This combination of factors translates to a high demand for the services we provide to families affected by pediatric cancers.

Direct beneficiaries per year: More than 3,000 members of families with childhood cancer.

Geographic areas served: Northern California

Programs: Okizu provides free camp programs for any child or family in northern California and Nevada that is affected by pediatric cancer. Recognizing that childhood cancer affects the entire family, we provide programs for siblings, young adults, parents and families as a whole. Our camp programs include:

  • Oncology Camp: A one-week camp for 6-17 year-olds who have or have had cancer. Offered three times each summer, Oncology Camp provides children with cancer a chance to be a part of a close-knit group of friends and enjoy the challenges and excitement of outdoor activities, which are not normally a part of a sick child's daily life. Seeing other children who are bald or missing a limb and yet are still able to run, laugh and play can make a real difference in a child's ability to cope with cancer. This support is invaluable to a child's overall recovery from cancer and the often-rigorous treatments that must be endured.
  • SIBS (Special and Important Brothers and Sisters) Camp: Also a one-week summer camp for children 6-17 years old, SIBS Camp is one of the few places in the country where siblings receive emotional and psychological support to deal with their own unique set of challenges, including feelings of guilt, resentment, fear, confusion, and anger, which can be exacerbated by additional responsibilities placed on them and by the lack of time and support parents are able to provide.
  • Family Camp Weekends: Provided nine times per year, Family Camp is an experience designed to give families a few days of fun, play and relaxation, and to gain strength and support through discussions with other families who also struggle with the affects of pediatric cancer.
  • Bereavement Camp Weekends: Provided twice a year, Bereavement Camp began when a group of families suggested we hold a camp especially for those suffering from the loss of a child due to cancer. The Bereaved Family Camp Weekends give families the opportunity to speak more freely about their experiences and bond with others who are also coping with the death of a child.
  • Teens-N-Twenties (TNT) Program: Provided two weekends a year for young adults 18-25 years of age, TNT serves many of our prior campers, who had literally outgrown our camp programs but still felt a strong need to come together. These weekends provide the teenagers and young adults with an ongoing opportunity to strengthen their friendships and give and receive support from their peers.
Each year, Camp Okizu serves more than 3,000 children and families from 38 California counties and Nevada. Due to the enormous financial burden of cancer treatment, Okizu does not charge families a fee to attend or send their children to camp. Our corps of more than 600 trained volunteer counselors help to ensure that camp participants receive both the medical and emotional support they need, and that we are able to maintain a maximum 3 to 1 camper to staff ratio at all times.

Community Stories

114 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Elizabeth198

Client Served

Rating: 5

We lost our son to ALL back in 2006. At the same time, literally two days later, I gave birth to my oldest daughter. I was having a very hard time processing both events. My son's social worker told me about this camp for kids with cancer and their families. I decided that it might be good to check out Okizu to see if it would help us find closure in these major life events. It was hard at first but I'm so glad we went.

Being able to talk to other families whom have experienced some of the same issues that go along with a childhood major illness and loss was invaluable to my family. It showed us what or life could be like and that we would eventually be OK some day. Hearing other families experiences also gave us a greater appreciation for our own. I don't know how we would have been able to connect with people who have walked the same path if it weren't for Okizu.

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

Okizu has always been a special place for my family. After losing our son to cancer, we were sent to camp in order to begin to heal. We came to know some great families who shared similar circumstances, all while being supported by the exceptional staff of Okizu. We look forward to going year after year and being there for families who are just starting their journeys. I can't begin to imagine how they do what they do year after year, sharing their live and our heartache and pain, but they always are there.

Client Served

Rating: 5

One of a kind experience. Being surrounded by nature & fellow families that have been touched by childhood cancer like ours is a beautiful thing. That sense of community & understanding that you can only get from people that have been through it. The counselors were so amazing with the kids & we all had an amazing weekend. Can’t waut to go back!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu is a wonderful place. The staff and volunteers are so kind and caring. We went there when my son had cancer and he and his siblings loved it. It was great being able to meet with other families dealing with the same thing. We have awesome memories of going there although we have now moved out of state. If we hadn't, we would still be going back.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have been affiliated with this organization for over 20 years. They helped me and my family through tough times. I met some of my dearest friends and many wonderful people through this program.
I hope they keep the magic alive for years to come!

Beverly W.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our family just spent an incredible family camp weekend at Okizu & made loving memories in a peaceful & glorious setting. Everyone was so welcoming & kind. Genuine & warm to our family who has been feeling alone in this cancer world. A light of hope!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our daughter died from brain cancer at the age of 7. We started attending Camp Okizu for the support they provide to families like ours. We have attended Family Camp and our other daughter attends the Sibs Camp and Bereaved Teen camp. There is nothing like being around others who understand what we are going through and that is what Okizu gives us. I cannot thank them enough. This is an amazing organization!!

Roxanne O.

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son was diagnosed with Leukemia ALL at 2y10m old. This diagnosis flipped our family around. Okizu helped all of us, as a family and independently, get it together. The best camp for families, pediatric cancer kids & sibs! Our daughter later became a camp counselor for Okizu SIBS camp; the same camp she went to growing up!

Erika Deeble C.

Client Served

Rating: 5

We love Camp Okizu! We have made wonderful memories there with quality family time and making new friends. All of the counselors and staff are amazing.

Faith G.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu is magical! We can't wait to go back to camp! The weekend we stayed at okizu was just what we needed. There are so many great things to say, its hard to decide where to start! Camp brought us together as a family. We left feeling happy and united, which was something I never expected. My son seemed to grow up and mature over night. My daughter and my son love it and keep asking to go back. We learned so much about navigating the school sysyem ans ieps. It was very valuable and I am so grateful okizu exists!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu is one of my very favorite organizations ever. It does so much good and is such a fun place to be. I can honestly say that I have liked Camp Okizu better than our Make a Wish trip in Hawaii. Don't get me wrong, Make A Wish is a great organization also and our Hawaiian vacation was a dream come true, but Camp Oklizu is the kind of family therapy that is needed while dealing with childhood cancer. It's filled with families walking the exact same path and that in itself is an indescribable feeling. It helps tremendously to know you are not alone in facing the horror that is childhood cancer. The grounds are spectacular. The cabins are beautiful with hot water and electricity (my kind of camping), the food provided is great, there is fishing, archery, canoeing, swimming, hiking trails, a ropes course and zip line, a game room with arts and crafts. You name it, they have it. You can't be a kid and not like it there, even if you are in the middle of cancer treatments. It's great therapy to see the same children, who were in treatment and bald the year before come back the next summer with a full head of hair and healthy as can be. It's amazing for children with cancer to meet and play with other children who get what it's like to live this way. It's so fun and such a safe, relaxing atmosphere. I'm very grateful we had Camp Okizu throughout my daughter's almost 3 year long chemotherapy treatment. Bottom line, it's just a really fun place where everywhere understands where you are coming from. Both my children have gone to oncology camp and sibling camp -it provides them with self confidence and the kind of independence one only gets from those kinds of experiences. Hurrah for Camp Okizu!

Laura G.4

Client Served

Rating: 5

My son was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma on his 13th birthday. That spring we went to our first Family Camp at Okizu. We thought we would have a nice weekend in the woods in a cabin with some fun activities to take our minds off what was happening, but what we found was so much more.

You really can't begin to know what it's like to have a child diagnosed with cancer until it happens to you. People can sympathize and be supportive, but they really don't know how traumatic it is when your child's very life is in danger and you have to think about it every day and deal with it somehow. At Okizu, we came together with other families who KNEW what it was like. My son made friends who KNEW what he was going through. This was the single most helpful experience for us, it was amazing and even cathartic to be able to spend time with people who KNEW and to talk about our experiences and share our joys and our pain, or just be ourselves and know we are not alone.

My son looked forward to Oncology Camp every year and came back with stories of friendship, inspiration, and healing. It helped him so much to be part of that special community, and when he was in remission, and eventually cancer-free, it helped shape him as someone who is empathetic and caring and is protective and nurturing of those who are still struggling with it.

It is such a beautiful, special place, filled with amazing, caring people. A place of healing, remembering, hope, and empowerment like no other

Anna Rose F.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I’ve been volunteering at okizu for 5 years, and every time I leave I can’t wait to go back. The feeling of community and support you have is unforgettable. Truly a one of a kind camp, organization, and family.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu is an amazing place. The staff make you feel welcome and comfortable during your most rough times in your life. I went every summer during the oncology weeks from 7 years of age until 16 or 17 years old. I loved going!!!

Client Served

Rating: 5

This place has become home for many people, including myself. The community, support and love provided by okizu is like no other and has helped me to become a better version of myself.

Maddie M.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu has instantly become one of my favorite places to be! Since volunteering here for the first time last summer, I was immediately inspired but the strong, courageous, and silly kids and counselors that make Okizu what it is. Whether you’re at the waterfront, making friendship bracelets, or having some s’mores while singing campfire songs, Okizu is the summer camp experience that heals the heart, mind, and soul. I’m already looking forward to spending several weeks here volunteering next summer!

Client Served

Rating: 5

Incredibly positive experience for my 2 sons. They were able to attend together and have shared memories that will last forever. My son attends from age 9 to age 17 a few months before he passed away. It’s an opportunity for a kid who has endured the effects of cancer to relax, feel joy, feel comfortable and build their self confidence before returning to their lives.

Elisabeth L.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was diagnosed with leukemia at age 13 and camp was over before I was discharged from the hospital. My doctor told me about Okizu and how great it was and how much fun I would have the next summer and I remember thinking, "he's out of his mind. Why would I want to camp?!" The following June my sister went to a session of SIBS camp at Okizu. She came back and couldn't stop talking about all the fun she had and the friends she'd made. I decided I would go to oncology camp and I would have fun. It was amazing. There were other kids with scars from their ports, with no hair and who were on so much chemo the mosquitoes wouldn't touch them. They were just like me. I went on to attend camp as a camper for several more summers before becoming junior staff, attending TNT weekend trips, volunteering as staff at family camp weekends, and a counselor at both SIBS and oncology camps. Camp Okizu has had such a positive influence on my life. I've made lifelong friends and can't wait to go back (maybe as a camp nurse this time?) when my children are older. Cancer sucks. Okizu is a true brightness in the darkness of pediatric cancer.

1 Alicia T.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I hold my experience with Camp Okizu very close to my heart. During the difficult 2.5 years of my little sister's diagnosis and subsequent treatment for leukemia, Camp Okizu was a home and support system like none other—for my sister and for me. I was welcomed into a community of siblings who understood what my entire family was going through. It was a scary, confusing, and emotional time, but I wasn't alone. My sister volunteers with Okizu to this day and has made lifelong friends.

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

There are plenty of charities that help kids with cancer. There are NONE that impact the families of cancer patients as a whole the way that Okizu does. My little sister had leukemia, which apart from financial strain, made it very difficult for us as a family. Since Okizu offers summer programs for siblings as well as actual patients, I was able to let out my feelings in a productive way. I knew that I wasn't the only one who felt helpless and neglected (out of necessity, not cruelty). Going to camp became the highlight of my summers. I can't think of a more worthy organization, or one with so many loving, supportive volunteers that really form a family for those they assist.

Sara B.2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Camp okizu is an amazing place for children and families! I wish I could volunteer more often...this place has a dear place in my heart.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

It's the best place on Earth! Met my husband and my BFF there as an oncology camper in 1989. It's a place to feel normal as a cancer kid.