Philanthropy, Voluntarism & Grantmaking Foundations,
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.