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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

Robin54

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu ranks up there with Disneyland and Yosemite for our family. It's something our family looks forward to every summer for both family camp as well as Oncology and Sibling camps for the kids. As parents, there is no other place where we can connect with families who we have a shared experience with...people who truly understand what it's like to have a child who has/had cancer. Even though our son is well now, he lives with long term effects from his treatment. We still live with the few of the cancer coming back. My kids both feel totally at ease when they are at camp for similar reasons. People who have not "walked in our shoes" just cannot fully understand. The volunteers who work at the camp are amazing, selfless human beings. My kids would stay at camp all summer if they could :)

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu is truly an amazing place. We were lucky enough to attend Family camp with our 3 year old twins this past summer. Our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia 11 months prior and it was the first time in almost a year that we all went somewhere together. The staff is truly amazing, and my kids are constantly asking when they get to return to camp and to see their favorite counselors again. We were able to connect with other parents and families that truly understand what we are going through. It is a wonderful organization.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu is a miracle in itself. The camp is full of love and support, and the volunteers and campers are inspirational. Having a safe place to escape to where people understand exactly what you went/are going through is an irreplaceable resource for families battling with cancer.

Teagin B.

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a sibling of a child with cancer Okizu was my "safe" place and full of people who understood what I was going through without me having to say or explain anything. After 2 years of going to Okizu my sibling lost his battle with cancer and Okizu is where I found the most comfort as it was a place full of support, laughter, and unconditional understanding! Thank you Okizu for providing me with some of my best friends, fondest memories, and support I couldn't get anywhere else!

Alan S.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Though our son passed away before he could get to know Okizu, our other children have greatly benefited from Okizu through SIBS Camp and the whole family has cherished Family Camp every year. Being able to be with other families that truly know and understand what our family is/has been going through. They are all very wonderful people that truly care about all the kids and parents they come into contact with. I can't even begin to put into words how Okizu has impacted our family in a positive manner. I mean after losing a child to cancer, who really understands? No one in my immediate circle of family and friends really understand and so I was actually a bit skeptical about going to Family Camp. But after going there and hearing the other families' stories and telling my story, you get that connection of true understanding. The staff are similar, they truly empathize and many know what it's like to have cancer. I can't say enough good things about Okizu.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

From the minute I stepped off the bus at Camp Okizu I knew it was an amazing place. Being a 17 year old camper I was quite hesitant to attend in the first place, but as I walked through the funnel of cheering counselors I knew I was in a very special place. I was hooked after my first week. Once I turned 18 I applied to be a volunteer counselor, I signed up to work for 3 weeks and ended up staying for 4. The environment that Okizu creates is beyond amazing. Whether you are a camper or a counselor you know that you are supported in anything that you do. Okizu has made me into the person I am today, some of my greatest friends and mentors are my fellow volunteers at camp. I count down the days until I can be back at Okizu next summer.

Client Served

Rating: 5

A parent volunteer told us about camp Okizu when my son was first diagnosed with cancer. She said it was the best thing that had happened to her family since her daughter's diagnosis. I thought it a bit strange that she was talking to me about camp at that time and I forgot about it during those first five months in the hospital. But I remembered her words when we were finally home. I thought my daughter would like it but she said, "No way are you shipping me off to camp." I signed us up for family camp so she could see what it was like. Within the first hour she talked to another camper who said he couldn't get mad at his sister because she had cancer. Our son still felt rotten and was so weak he spent the nights in the lodge in a bed. No one batted an eye at his appearance and all the counselors helped us remember how to have fun and enjoy nature. In the midst of a traumatic experience Okizu offers shining beacons of hope, love and acceptance. There is life outside of the oncology ward. And it is beautiful.

Kristi R.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first started coming to camp as a sibling's camper in 2001 and began volunteering in 2005. Camp Okizu is a truly amazing place from all aspects. The families and volunteers form a community where everyone feels welcome, safe, and genuinely cared about. Families are able to take a break from their daily routine of hospital visits to come to a beautiful site and visit with families facing similar adversities. The volunteers truly engage with the kids and allow them to have fun, no matter what health restrictions. This camp has such a positive impact on the families it serves and the volunteers it requires. Okizu truly is a great nonprofit.

Alison13

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I stared going to Okizu when I was thirteen in 2002 right after I finish chemo. I was very nervous since I have never been to a summer camp. My brother got to go before me and came back with so many stories on how camp works, so I was curious if I would fit it. When I got on the bus I was so surprise that there were so many kids that has gone through what I had gone through. I can't really express how Okizu really change my life when I first step foot off that bus, but it was like a load was lifted off my shoulders because everyone treat you no different even though I had no hair or needed help getting around. When I turned 18 I was ready to become a counselor because I could not see myself not giving back to an organization that has done so much for my family and I and still do. Even though I am not a camper any more I still feel that Okizu is supporting me through my struggles in life. I plan my life around Okizu because of the smile on the kids face and the laughter. There is no other place then Okizu where no one in the family is left out with support and the load that gets lifted from the shoulder is like life maybe not as hard when so many great people are willing to lend a hand. Okizu is a place that people need to experience to really understand what it takes to make a difference in these family and how one week can change a kid's life.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Camp Okizu is one of my favorite places. I have gone to camp as both a TnT Camper (Teens n' Twenties) and a Family Camp Counselor. Every time I come home from camp whether I was a camper or counselor, I feel like my life has always changed for the better. When I first attended camp at a TnT weekend, I was one year post-chemo. The chemotherapy I was on was pill-form, so I was hardly ever at the Cancer Center, which meant I never really got the chance to interact with others (especially young adults) who knew what it was like to deal with cancer. When I came to Okizu, that all changed. Everyone there just gets it when it comes to living with cancer. It was so awesome to be at a place where the word cancer wasn't a conversation stopper. I could talk about a time when I was on chemo and no one would look at me shocked, forcing me to explain that I had cancer and all of the other details; it was extremely liberating. I love Camp Okizu so much! It is the best place ever!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

"A week in August is non-negotiable." That's what my best friend told the numerous employers recruiting him. He was referring to the time he absolutely, under no circumstances, required so that he could volunteer as a counselor at Camp Okizu. And after that week, every August, he would tell me how life-changing the week had been for him. Though struggling with cancer himself, he devoted that week to children with cancer, hoping to give them a week to feel the joys of childhood that are so often stolen by childhood cancer. And while I know he succeeded in making a difference in those children's lives, he also walked away refreshed, revitalized, and filled with a vivaciousness that no treatment could ever provide. When he lost his battle with cancer, I chose to volunteer in his memory, to attempt to continue his legacy. The smiles, the laughter, the moments of joy, the triumphs, the struggles, the tears, the dancing, the friendship bracelets, the memories... They are only a teensy-tiny portion of what Okizu provides for families affected by childhood cancer.

Amy_49

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I try and do what I can for the Okizu Foundation. They have been there for my family for close to twenty years. We went to family camp first because my kids were to young to go to camp by themselves back then and I wanted to check them out. Family Camp was great! It was greater then I could have imagined. , Soon my kids went to oncology camp and sibs camp. It was important for my son to see people who were just like him. It was equally important for my daughter to go to sibs camp so she could identify with other kids who's siblings have cancer. Family camp was my once a year consoling session. It made me hopeful my son would grow up and not be taken by the disease and seeing all the consolers did that for me. It also gave me the insight that I may have some gaps in my daughters life with periods of time I didn't have time to take pictures or have time to spend time with her because of her brothers illness. Camp Okizu has meant far more to me then I can ever say. Even when I volunteer for them I have a wonderful time!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Never felt more excepted, or more comfortable like I did at Okizu. The effect was immediate. The people who work , volunteer, or attend the camp are the kindest people I have ever met. Okizu is an amazing program where I felt like my volunteering had an impact on the campers, and greatly affected me as well. I can't wait to get back!

Gina17

Volunteer

Rating: 5

When I stepped off the bus as a 9 year-old child with my bald head and crutches in tow, I could have never imagined the impact that Okizu would have on my life. As a child Okizu believed in me and treated me just like everyone else, I was not the sick kid or the girl with one leg. No one at Okizu ever told me "you can't do that", in fact, there I was challenged to and succeeded in doing things I would never have dreamed possible. I believe in the support Okizu provides to families affected by childhood cancer so much that after my time as a camper i have spent the last 15 years volunteering to help provide the same experience to others. Okizu has also given me life long friends as well as helped to shape me in my adulthood. I have the fortune to not only volunteer every summer, but as a teacher at a local Children's Hospital I am able to make sure that my patients and families receive the same love and support that Okizu gave to me.

Carolyn25

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter was a camper during her cancer treatment. She made so many friends and 9 years later keeps in touch with many. She saw that she was not the only child with cancer and had friends understand what she was going through. The volunteers were wonderful! Ever child participated in the events but if needed there were awesome doctors (Dr Mike) and nurses. Kids could be kids. Family weekend was so wonderful. We felt relaxed, nurtured, and supported. They even have sibling camp. This camp gave us courage and helped us so much!

Katie Coyne

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I started attending Camp Okizu in 1999 as a SIBS camper. I grew up my entire life with a younger sister fighting cancer, and this place felt like a home away from home. I could get away from the fears of cancer, even though I was surrounded by people who were affected by it. It also became a sanctuary for me after my sister passed away; a place to remember her and talk about her without judgement. The second I turned 18 I started volunteering during the summer. And now at the age of 22 I have volunteered for 18 weeks over the summer months and easily over 15 weekends during the year. I dedicate as much time as I can to Okizu, including fundraising efforts because this place is simply magical. It is free to all the families that attend and can change lives in a few hours. I cannot truly express my love for Okizu in a short paragraph, but if you ever want a magical experience where you take away more than you feel that you give, volunteer here. It will change your life forever.

Johanna2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Once upon a time ago I was a volunteer at Camp Okizu as the Waterfront Director. Hanging out on Lake Vera with the campers and staff was so much fun! Okizu is such a wonderful place for the whole family.

Emily40

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was a camper for 9 years before becoming a councelor. I can not imagine life without camp. I would rather go to camp than travel abroad.

Larissa B.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I attended Camp Okizu's summer camp sessions for ten years of my life, from ages 7-17. Looking back, I realize how major a role Okizu played in the formation and solidification of my sense of human compassion and empathy, as well as my overall appreciation of life. When I turned 18, I did not waver in my decision that I wanted to become a staff member at this magical place. Each summer, I return for at least a week to give back to the campers, what I myself have received. If you ask anyone, of any age, what is so special about their time spent at Okizu, they are likely to tell you about the Camp's atmosphere. There is a general feeling of love and acceptance there. You can't help but shed your self-consciousness, and leave your petty problems at the door. It is a beautiful experience, and a piece of me that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Client Served

Rating: 5

After we lost our daughter to cancer several years ago, one of our daughter's Nurses, a friend, suggest we check into attending the berievement camp at OKIZU. My inclination was not to get involved. Just go on with "getting over" our loss. The more I've learned about this kind of deep tragic loss, the more glad I am that we are able to go to OKIZU camp with our kids. OKIZU is a very safe and welcoming place. Kids can be themselves, even kids who currently have cancer, or have had cancer, or siblings of kids with cancer, or struggling families, or families who've lost children to cancer. OKIZU has a camp specially designed for each of these categories. You can come, have fun, enjoy the gorgeous facilities, join in the activities, join in the discussion, express your feelings, or not. It is up to you. The staff are knowledgable and they really get it. Our whole family LOVES, LOVES coming to OKIZU. These people are angels in our book.

Review from Guidestar