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As a staff member at North Star Reach, I want to thank you for the camp experiences you have helped to make possible for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and their family members. Today I’m asking for your support as we continue to evolve and grow our programs to meet the needs of our campers, their siblings, parents and caregivers.

As many of you know, because of the coronavirus, we re-imagined our traditional summer camp and hosted virtual programs this year. Despite the challenges of communicating through glowing screens and chat windows, 312 campers across three time zones and 11 states played, laughed, danced and shared meaningful experiences with other kids who also live with serious illnesses.

“Just like in past years, within four days strangers became friends.”

Marisa, 17, who has attended Transplant Camp for 10 summers

To see how the camp magic came to life this summer, watch the short video below with highlights from our six camp-at-home sessions. 

When you see the joy on our campers’ faces, it’s easy to forget that behind every Zoom window is the story of a child whose life has been interrupted by serious illness. In fact, many of our campers, including 10-year-old Lucy, have never known a time when they weren’t sick.

When she was nine months old, Lucy was diagnosed with a rare genetic liver disorder. Her condition deteriorated rapidly, and her parents were informed that without a transplant their daughter would die.

For two weeks, Lucy underwent treatments and waited for her transplant. The night it arrived she was taken into the operating room. But before doctors could begin surgery, Lucy had a pulmonary hemorrhage. Several weeks passed in the hospital as Lucy underwent treatments to stabilize her condition and the family waited for another organ donor. Just days before her first birthday, Lucy went back into the OR and received her gift of life.

Lucy’s health has come a long way since then. While it’s been a difficult road to improved health, thankfully she hasn’t had any recent medical events.

 

As she grew into girlhood, however, she had an ache the hospital couldn’t fix: She was lonely. She didn’t know anyone else like her. No friends who understood how hard it was to swallow pills every day or not to cry when poked with needles for tests and blood work during routine clinic visits.

Four years ago, when Lucy was seven, she came to North Star Reach’s Transplant Camp. She shared a cabin with seven other girls who also had received transplants and spent the week enjoying outdoor adventures with them. At night, when the cabin lights went out, Lucy had her stuffy companion, Piggy, to keep her company, as well as the voices of her new friends telling one another stories in the dark.

These camp friendships have provided Lucy with a different kind of healing. “She is a very independent person by inclination but not by circumstance,” says Lucy’s dad. “Jumping away from the nest has been really important to her. It gave her the social connection that she needed.”

There is nothing Lucy looks forward to more each summer than seeing her camp friends again. And although this year’s virtual camp was different than the past three summers, she still struck out on new adventures with friends that felt far away from home. “She put on her headphones and would shoo us away,” says her mom, Katy. “Because camp is her own private thing. But I heard lots of giggles coming out from behind the closed door in her room.”

 

Independence. Lasting friendships. A place of belonging. These are the experiences your investment in North Star Reach provides children whose lives have been interrupted by serious illness.

With your support today, we can continue to provide even more cost-free programs to our campers and their families during a time when they are especially isolated. Along with four virtual fall family camp weekends in September and October, these new programs include a series of bi-weekly online support groups for campers and for parents and caregivers. We’re also hosting a two-day virtual Family Care Conference (Oct.7 & 8). Created specifically for parents and caregivers of children with serious illnesses, the free event will offer presentations and workshops by leading medical and mental health professionals designed to educate, inspire and build community.

One of our guiding values as an organization is to reach high—and go beyond. It’s not just an aspirational value. It’s what our campers and their families urgently need from us to help them through this difficult time.

Donating to North Star Reach makes you a champion of these sustaining social connections.

 

Please consider making an important gift today.

On behalf of Lucy’s family, and all the families we serve, we can’t thank you enough for your generosity.

With gratitude,

Ami Walsh
Lucy’s Cabin Counselor, Summer 2017
Experience Design Strategist, North Star Reach

P.S. By making a gift to North Star Reach today, your donation can be doubled! A generous matching gift of $5,000 has been made by an anonymous donor to help make your donation go even further. (All donations are matched up to a combined total of $5,000.)

P.P.S. If you’re moved by Lucy’s story, you can include a happy birthday note when you donate online, as Lucy will celebrate her 11th birthday on September 22. Be sure to watch the summer highlight video for a glimpse of her aerial acrobatics during this summer’s closing campfire. It’s a tribute to how far she’s come since her transplant 10 years ago.