Camp Esperanza Newsletter
Spring | 2016
"It's for the Kids!"
Bridewell Foundation Board & Camp Esperanza Leadership
Letter from the President
For one week each July, 140 kids with cancer pack their bags and head to Camp Esperanza where they have an experience of a lifetime. The week will be full of surprises and adventure. Camp allows them the opportunity to discover just how normal they can still be by sharing stories, laughter and fun with others that are on the same cancer-fighting journey. Camp provides a break for young patients where they share the best medicine of all - HOPE! Esperanza is the Spanish word for hope. The Bridewell Foundation makes this happen for these young children. For over thirty years we've sent kids to camp free of charge.
As a counselor, a former Camp Co-Director and now President of the Bridewell Foundation I want to express my passion for Camp Esperanza. It’s hard to express it in writing but when you see the smiles and hear the laughter at camp you will understand immediately. We have a very dedicated staff. Many of our counselors have volunteered for Camp for over 10 years and some over 20 years. In 2015, our volunteer staff consisted of 21 counselors who attended Camp Esperanza as campers. These counselors represent HOPE for our kids. Camp truly touches the lives of our campers, their families, the medical staff and over 75 adult volunteers who offer up a week of their lives. See their smiles and read more about camp in this newsletter and as well as visiting www.campesperanza.org.
In order for camp to be free of charge to each camper, the Bridewell Foundation (we) must raise $500/camper to cover operating costs. There are many levels of donations and each dollar is important to our kids. Please consider making a donation today. Donate at www.campesperanza.org or click the DONATE button below.
Camp Leadership Evolution
Organize and run Steering Committee. Set up and help facilitate counselor orientations. Use the golf cart at camp to deliver supplies. Meet with head counselors and with Camp John Marc staff. Take the occasional whip cream pie in the face. These are among the duties of a Camp Esperanza co-director that others easily notice. However, the job entails so much more. Twenty-nine counselors have accepted the call to be a Co-Director at some point over the 34 year history of Camp Esperanza. Pretty much all of them have looked over evaluations, put together a budget, touched base with committee coordinators, interviewed potential counselor candidates, made hundreds of decisions each day at camp, and yes, taken a pie or two in the face.
The duties of a co-director generally begin within a month of returning from camp – that is about the time all of the evaluations from the just finished camp are due. This feedback is part of the data reviewed with the leadership of both Camp John Marc and Camp Esperanza to decide which parts of the week are in need of adjustment. A few months after camp ends, the budget is closed and the co-directors prepare the next budget then present it to the Bridewell Board. Steering Committee begins meeting, plans begin taking shape and it is spring, the time for counselor applications, interviews, hiring and placement. Schedules and sessions for new counselor, head counselor and all counselor orientations are finalized and all of a sudden, the week of camp has arrived.
Since a co-director position can essentially be a second job, and since most who agree to the position already have busy lives, the leadership of camp has evolved from resting on a pair of shoulders to being handled by a team of 4 or 5. The personnel coordinator handles all of the groundwork and paperwork requirements for the hiring of counselors, and also teams with the orientation coordinator to develop and prepare all of the training materials and orientation sessions. These two coordinators join the co-directors to form the interview committee which works to fulfill the needs of camp staffing in order to best serve the campers each summer.
An additional leadership team resource is a previous co-director who often serves as one of the floaters during the week of camp. The floaters are able to step in and assist the co-directors with many of the at-camp duties, thereby providing co-directors the time needed to handle issues as they arise. The transition from a pair of leaders to a leadership team has allowed co-directors to complete their daily duties at camp much sooner than in the past. Unfortunately, there still isn’t much after lunch napping during the week in the Casa!
Camp Esperanza Former Campers
Former Camp Esperanza Camper now to lead Camp John Marc
Cancer has been good to Kevin Randles. That might sound like an absurd statement, but upon closer inspection one can see its validity. Without having endured childhood cancer, Kevin would have never attended Camp Esperanza as a camper. Without begin a Camp Esperanza camper, he might not have developed a passion for Camp John Marc and thus decide to apply to be a member of the staff while in college. Without being on staff, he likely would never have met his wife. And without turning his summer stints at CJM into a full time position, he would not have had the opportunity to move into his new role with CJM.
Vance Gilmore, long time Camp Director of Camp John Marc, has known Kevin since 1992 when Kevin came to camp at the age of seven. Vance has watched Kevin go through several stages of development - from child, to teen, to college student, summer staffer to full time staffer and now that Kevin is an adult, Vance is thrilled that a former camper is taking the reins as Executive Director. Vance has been heard to say, “What could be better than a former camper being the one to keep the Camp John Marc traditions going?”
Per CJM, “We are pleased to announce that former Camp John Marc camper, summer staff member and Assistant Director Kevin Randles has assumed the role of Executive Director of Camp John Marc. Kevin is passionate about the mission of Camp John Marc and is committed to our tradition of providing quality service to all our campers and partners.” Per Lisa Langrehr, “We are pleased that one of our own former campers is dedicating his time and energy to providing the camping experience to kids with special needs. Kevin is proof that hope exists in the face of a devastating diagnosis.”
Spotlight on Jensen Anderson
“I remember lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV machine, exhausted and sick, watching a video that the doctor had brought in about Camp Esperanza. As I watched a teenage boy climb a rock wall, the only thing I could think was, “All I wanna do is sleep right now. I highly doubt I’ll be going to camp anytime soon.” It wasn’t until the following year that I reconsidered.
I was once again sitting at a pint sized craft table in the Children’s Medical Center Oncology Clinic waiting room, . . . and I wasn’t the lone resident of the table. Another patient, a boy named Jordan a few years older, had joined me. . . . I can’t quite remember how, but our conversation turned to the subject of Camp Esperanza, a camp for patients. He was a camp veteran, and a very enthusiastic one at that. He was raving about the incredible experiences and the nonstop fun that he had. The more he talked, the more animated his stories became. One couldn’t help but share in his excitement! When I look back on that conversation, it was the impetus that finally changed my mind.”
Jensen would quickly find out what so many who have attended Camp Esperanza know, that camp is truly a special place. The week is inspiring, motivating, exhausting, invigorating, in other words, totally awesome. That first summer and the seven more to follow would transform Jensen from an “uncertain little girl” to a young lady who can claim her time at camp has “made me braver, made me want to be myself everywhere I go, and has taught me not to take life for granted.” And she has stayed true to her statement.
For the past two summers, Jensen has worked as a member of the staff at Camp John Marc, the host site for Camp Esperanza. As a member of the staff, Jensen is making good on her desire to be “a counselor for kids with cancer.” Making good, and more. Not only does she serve others during our week of the summer, she is also there for the many other camps serving children with various special needs. The initiative and drive she has for all things Camp Esperanza, and now Camp John Marc, has led her to prepare for a career as a child life specialist. Who knows, perhaps sometime in the future she will serve in yet another vital role at Camp Esperanza! If she does, those campers will be in great hands, for she can truly tell them, “. . . the one thing that has formed and unbreakable bond between us is the fact that we are all survivors. We have all overcome one of the most difficult things that life could throw at us . . . cancer. We have all come face to face with its malevolence . . . when you look at us, we are as diverse as they come. Every last one of us, however, has that unspoken bond.”
In the words of her favorite counselor, “We love you Miss Jensen!”
The Wisdom of Osato
Osato Agboaye attended Camp Esperanza as a camper for only two years, but those two years left a huge impression upon him. This summer he plans to return for his 9th year as a counselor, bringing with him a mountain of energy, optimism and wisdom to share with the 140 campers who will be there. The story he told at a Camp Esperanza gathering the year he graduated at the age of 15 is proof of how the lives of those 140 campers will forever be changed this July. Here is the story he told:
“I was once in an art shop and I observed a peculiar painting. It was one that depicted a ship that was caught in a storm. The raging waters around it teemed with the darkness and the wind to break the sails of the ship as it struggled in the abyss of the night. In the distance, upon a cliff, was a small lighthouse, shining bright. I thought hard to understand it, but the meaning was beyond my grasp. I thought nothing of it and left the store.
Three years ago, I was diagnosed with T-cell leukemia. Everyone I held close was devastated, but something deep down inside me assured me that everything would be okay. Throughout my treatment, I had many disappointments and joys. One of my greatest joys was coming to Camp Esperanza. Camp is a place that, for one week, children of various ages come together to form a tightly knit family, bound together by an identical struggle. The bout with cancer, at least for that week, is transformed from a personal battle to a group war. Some play the part of the front line, and others offer the support in the background, giving all hope and the confidence that all is well.
Since my cancer experience, I’ve learned that mysterious enigma that puzzled me in the art shop. The ship in the painting is a child, and the storm is cancer. The lighthouse, the one sign of hope in the midst of a storm, is Camp Esperanza.”
Faces of Hope Luncheon
Benefitting Camp Esperanza
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Rolling Hills Country Club
401 E. Lamar Blvd., Arlington, TX 76011
11:30am – 1:00pm
$50.00 per person
Showcasing Children’s Art Projects from Camp 2015
Panel Discussion with Camp Esperanza Counselors
For information, contact Doreen Bruner817.368.5533 * firstname.lastname@example.org
What We Do To Remember
Michael J. WhitlockPresident, Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Corp.
As is often the case, charitable efforts are brought about after a close friend or family member is lost to a terminal illness or sudden passing. In my case, it was the loss of my twin brother Steve who died in 1989, after a battle with cancer.
Steve was just 26 years old, a 1981 graduate of Plano High School. He was a healthy, physically fit hard working young man with lots of friends and his entire life ahead of him. Thirteen months after being diagnosed with a glioblastoma of the brain stem, Steve was gone. Steve’s death took a toll on all of us. In our grief we could not help but think of other families who were going through similar trials. I began to think about how we could help preserve Steve’s memory by helping others.
In the fall of that same year, we held a golf outing to raise money for charity. The small group of participants included family and many of Steve’s close friends. The outing was held at Sherrill Park Golf Course in Richardson, Texas. While it was a humble beginning the idea to raise money for charity in Steve’s name was born and a few months later The Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament was founded.
Our first official event raised a modest $1300. The proceeds were donated to Camp Esperanza. Camp Esperanza was a relatively new summer camp for kids battling cancer and was suggested to us by a nurse at the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas as a worthwhile charity. Thus began a relationship now in its 27th year between the Whitlock Family and The Bridewell Foundation.
My profession is in private sector criminal pretrial release more commonly known as bail bonds. My father Jack Whitlock was in the same business for more than 40 years. After 20 years of producing our event we were in need of new energy. So, in 2009 I approached the leadership of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas about partnering with SGW to raise money for the kids. The PBT board of directors voted unanimously to participate and the impact of their involvement and their representative Marge Walstad, in particular, was immediate and significant.
Within in two years of SGW and PBT forming a partnership the annual donation to Camp Esperanza more than doubled. This event and the great kids it supports has been embraced by bondsman and their surety companies from all over Texas throughout the United States.
According to Doreen Bruner, Executive Director of The Bridewell Foundation, The Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament has become Camp Esperanza’s largest annual contributor with more than $400,000 in total contributions.
In 2016 we will hold our 27th golf fundraising event. Raising money for brave kids battling cancer is how our family, friends and the professional bondsmen of Texas choose to remember loved ones lost to cancer. In my case, we raise money in honor of my brother Steve and mother Annette who we lost to lung cancer in 2014. Our collective efforts cannot bring our loved ones back, however we can help 140 kids each year who are still fighting the fight and that’s what we do to remember.
For more information about the Steven G. Whitlock Memorial Golf Tournament, please view our website: www.sgwmemorial.com