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UKANDU

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Cancer, Children & Youth, Children & Youth Services, Health, Health (General & Financing)

Mission: The mission of UKANDU is to bring joy, hope, and connection to communities impacted by childhood and adolescent cancer. We recognize that cancer impacts the entire family and we aim to provide parents and caregivers a respite from the physical, emotional and financial toll childhood cancer poses to families.

Target demographics: communities impacted by childhood and adolescent cancer

Geographic areas served: Portland, Oregon

Programs: UKANDU Virtual Camp- Born out of hardship and necessity, our newest program, UKANDU Virtual Camp, was initially offered as a substitute for Camp UKANDU in the summer of 2020. As that wild experiment proved to be a smashing success, we realized this is an offering we can make every year. Unfortunately, there are children of all ages who are too sick to make it to one of our programs in any given year. And as we learned in 2020, there are families across the country who would love to experience the ‘hope and joy’ that UKANDU provides. So we are committed to offering virtual programming on an ongoing basis for our community.... UKANDU Teen Retreat- Starting in the 90s, The Teen Retreat was originally offered as a program within a program during Camp UKANDU, and was offered as a way to recognize the unique needs of adolescents impacted by cancer. Our teen campers have acted as role models to our younger campers from the beginning, and the Teen Retreat became a way for us to share our appreciation for their contribution to Camp UKANDU.... Camp UKANDU- The ‘flagship’ offering from UKANDU, “Camp UKANDU” has been providing a week of ‘outrageous fun’ to children ages 8-18 since 1986. When a family learns that one of their children is diagnosed with cancer, the last thing most of them want to do is send that child away from the family for a week. Time becomes more precious than it has ever been known. Parents are understandably covetous of the time and a future that is too often cut short.... UKANDU Family Camp- UKANDU Family Camp was another logical program extension of the ‘hope and joy’ that Camp UKANDU has delivered for more than three decades. Our Executive Director and Program Director grew tired of the heartbreaking requests from parents asking if their six year old could ‘please just come to camp.’ Knowing that too many children will die before making it to Camp UKANDU meant that we needed to do more. Over years of interacting with the parents of our campers, we realized parents are just big kids too! UKANDU Corps- UKANDU Corps was conceived by our Executive Director and inspired by his own experience in volunteering at UKANDU. It is in our DNA – heck, it’s in our name! – to remind people that “You Can Do!” a lot in life, no matter your challenges. While Camp UKANDU and other UKANDU programs facilitate this growth and learning in critical ways, UKANDU Corps aims to draw on the powerful experience and self-confidence that comes by serving others. When we see our efforts have a positive impact on someone else’s life and on the world around us, pride and self-worth flourish. UKANDU Family Reunion- Started in 2018, the UKANDU Family Reunion is for anyone who has attended, or whose family members attended any of the UKANDU programming over our 36 years. Like any family reunion, and with hundreds of campers and volunteers each year, this affair can be a raucous affair. But like all UKANDU fun, this fun is responsible and deserving of our proud UKANDU name.

Community Stories

13 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Hillary O.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In 1995 I was a shy teenager who also happened to be the sibling of a cancer patient. We arrived at Camp Ukandu not knowing a soul and it was life changing. I had not had the opportunity to meet other siblings and realize that what I was going through was very similar to what other families were living through. I was not alone.
In 2003 I was a shy, new volunteer to the Counselor in Training program at Camp Ukandu. I recognized some faces from my time as a camper and was able to interact with campers who were living through the same thing that I had not that long ago. That was the reason I wanted to return. To let other kids know that they were not alone, although it really felt like it sometimes.
Over the years I have had the good fortune of getting to work more behind the scenes and meet the families that we serve. You'll hear stories of parents hesitant to drop their child off with strangers, and we get it. But when those parents come to pick up their child at the end of the week, they might not recognize their happy child for their time at Camp Ukandu has changed them, much like it changed me in 1995.
At Camp Ukandu you are not alone.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp UKANDU gave my daughters a loving and supportive environment to spend time with fellow ped. cancer survivors and their siblings leading to lasting friendships, incomparable peer support, and unparalleled joyful memories. An abundance of thoughtful and skilled staff, imaginative inclusive activities, and the commitment to safety puts a parent's mind at ease. The healing respite endures, comforting long after camp week. We are so grateful to have been welcomed into the UKANDU family.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was first introduced to Camp Ukandu from a friend who encouraged me to attend a fundraiser. It was there that I heard from several families who have children who have battled with cancer. Some won the battle, some lost.
There, I decided to apply to volunteer for this camp that gives “outrageous fun” to kids battling cancer and their sibling.... because siblings are battling too.
The administration team works hard to place the volunteers in areas where they will thrive in this camp. They truly believe that if their people are placed in areas that best use their gifts, then the whole camp work better to create the best memories for the campers.
The camp was AMAZING. I met so many kids of all ages in different parts of their battle. They were laughing, playing, joking and cheering each other on. They were no longer the “kid with cancer”.
They were just kids having outrageous fun.
This camp brings so much fun, hope, inspiration and joy into these kids lives who have had to fight hard to survive because of cancer. At camp, they are having the time of their lives. Truly, they are living out loud.
It brings tears to my eyes thinking about the powerful impact this camp has for not only children battling cancer, but also for their sibling and all the volunteers who have the amazing opportunity to be a part of it.
It truly is one of a kind.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Ukandu provides a unique camp experience and opportunity for children with cancer and their siblings to connect with others that understand their circumstances. Our daughter has enjoyed the camp two years and even virtual camp this past year. The staff and volunteers are so full of positive energy and make it a long lasting memory full of fun crafts, campfire songs and skits, cabin activities and more. We are so thankful for the generous gift of fun and escape that they have given to our whole family!!

Client Served

Rating: 5

My kids love Camp Ukandu and have really enjoyed their time there. The counselors are excellent and the program is so versatile. My kids have made lasting friendships there with peers and with their counselors! This is a great place for kids who have/had cancer and their siblings. There is a invisible bond this kids have since they have all seen the unfortunate horror of Childhood Cancer. They are able to relate to one another that they couldn't do anywhere else.
I recommend this to any other Cancer Families!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been going to camp since 2009. When I first went I was unsure if I would like it there. I was an extremely shy kid fresh out of treatment. After my first year, I knew camp was going to be my favorite place. I have never felt so included and welcomed. I knew as a camper they did everything to make me happy. I met friends that I shared a deeper bond with than anyone I have ever met. At camp I wasn’t the weird bald cancer kid, I was just like everyone else. I made sure I went to camp every year after that(I have only not gone to camp once in the past 11 years). When I turned 18 I knew I had to go back as a staff member, and as staff I made even more friendships. It was my time to give those kids the best week of their life, just like camp gave to me. Camp is my happy place and I am so thankful of everything camp does.

shakes

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've volunteered at Camp UKANDU since 1989. Every summer camp had about 120 kids, some patients, some siblings, all getting to be kids again after a diagnosis which shatters the lives of everyone in their family. I've seen the hope and joy in those faces as they realize they CAN do much more than they ever thought was possible. We've had our tears, but this camp is a place where everyone relates to others from their heart. Many of our staff are former campers. And every one could tell the same story. Camp UKANDU is the best place in the world. And it comes at no cost to the families.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What an amazing place. This place called "Camp UKANDU". I have been blessed to be a volunteer with Camp UKANDU for twenty years. During that time I have had the good fortune to watch small miracles happen. I've seen children arrive on Saturday not wanting to get out of the car. And then watch as the same camper is upset because their parents came to early on Sunday to pick them up.
Campers that will hardly speak on Saturday and Thursday at the dance they are singing and dancing center stage.
Campers that arrive head down, hiding under a hat. Seen later in the week hardly recognizable.,head up smiling ear to ear. Sitting on top of a horse.
Campers that meet at camp. Both needing bone marrow treatments. And then going home and talking their doctors into doing their treatment at the same time. So they could be in the hospital at the same time.
Campers that have found a place where no one looks at their bald head, or that they have a feeding tube, that they a prothsetic. A place where the can just be a kid.

Susan "Fargo" Stark

Client Served

Rating: 5

The best experience my daughter had when she was going through treatment for brain cancer was spending a week at Camp UKandu. Cancer treatment is scary and overwhelming. It can be hard to feel anything but total fear. Ukandu understands that and has found a way to bring HOPE & JOY to kids and families dealing with pediatric cancers through OUTRAGEOUS FUN! I asked my daughter what she liked most about going to camp and she said that it was being able to just be a kid. “I’m not the kid who has cancer, I’m just a kid - having fun and making friends.” As a parent of a child with cancer, seeing a smile on their face and having fun with friends...I can’t put a price on that. The work this amazing organization does is so important to emboldening the spirits of these kids and empowering them to take on life’s challenges. Not only did it help our daughter, but It helped our entire family. By having our daughter go to camp, my husband and I were able to have a break as caregivers allowing us to recharge our batteries too. We continue to give to this organization because I know it puts smiles on kids faces when they need it most.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Our kids attended Camp Ukandu last year and had such an amazing time. The bonded with peers, learned about the world, tackled new challenges and came home begging for more. We love Camp Ukandu!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Camp Ukandu is a great place where you can relate to others and have fun. I can’t pick a favorite activity because I loved too many of them. A few that I really enjoyed are the carnival, the dance, and art. Weeks after camp has ended I’m still singing the songs. Even during COVID-19 they managed to stay connected with us by creating a virtual camp.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was diagnosed Oct 1, 1992 with Acute Lymphatic Leukemia at age 7. My oncologists David Tillford told my parents about a cancer camp called Camp UKANDU. In 1995 My parents dropped myself and sister off in a large field filled with people who we didn't know. Intemedating? Very. I cried and did not want to stay not knowing that this would be the best week of my life.( We returned in 1996 for a 2nd year ) It was a life changing experience that I will never forget. The counselors where so caring and loving and there was sooo much to do. The most important part was that I was around kids who shared the same experience that I did. Who could relate to my cancer issues. I knew that I was not alone and no one was judging me. You make such a bond with friends and counselors that make a big impact on your life. Jason...(Thumper) was my impact. He was a boys counselor but that didn't matter to me. He was always there and carried me everywhere. He made my exspeirence at camp last forever.. Fast forward a few years. I returned to Camp UKANDU in my early 20s and was sooooo excited! When I got to camp there was counselors who where still volunteering. Campers who I knew from camp that where new counselors. Come to find out Thumper was still there and it was like I never left camp we still had that bond. It connections like that, that make camp, camp. Camp UKANDU is not only a camp for kids with cancer, but its family. Until there is a cure there is camp. #Campstrong.

Jordan R. H.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From a camper battling childhood cancer, to now a staff member, and this last year on the staff leadership team... This camp has brought nothing but joy, support, and “family” to a horrible disease that affected my family and I at a young age. It continues to be a support system for adults and kids alike with family connections throughout the year and hosting summer camps. It’s a bright light and group of people I always look forward to seeing, being a support to families during the hardest battles of their lives and showing them there is still hope and love in the world, and that they are not alone. ✨

https://youtu.be/ITcelb5ZEtA