September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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If you are the parent of a child with cancer, what do you need most? What if you are that child’s sibling? Or the child with cancer – what do you need most? What you need most is unconditional love. Your daily life is full of fear, pain, hard work, and stress. It’s hard to remember a time when you could laugh and relax. It’s hard to remember what it felt like to be still and reflect on your experience with someone who wanted to understand it. There are resources and support out there.  Our team wanted to highlight the good works of Camp Agape, a program of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco Philoptochos Kids ‘n’ Cancer Ministry

At Camp Agape, families who are battling childhood cancer can do all those things. They can bask in unconditional love, dance, laugh, be still, talk…they can relax and heal, even if only for a few days, before they get up and rejoin the battle. There are camps in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. The ministry provides an extraordinary, all-expenses paid summer camp experience in a safe environment specially designed to meet the needs of children and families fighting cancer.

What is camp Agape?

The story of Camp Agape began 25 years ago, when His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of San Francisco visited the Children’s Hospital Central California near St Nicholas Ranch and Retreat center in Dunlap, CA.  He walked through the Oncology unit, encountering families struggling to help console and save their children, and was especially bothered not seeing anyone talking with one another and being isolated.  Upon his return, he asked Philoptochos to open a camp for these children and their families, with all their expenses to be paid.  Today, with the continued support of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco, this ministry operates 5 camp facilities yearly.  The first Camp Agape started at Saint Nicholas Ranch and Retreat center.  It has expanded to Portland, Oregon; Ramona, California; and Mayer, Arizona.  Camp Agape offers an all-expense-paid summer camp experience to hundreds of cancer-afflicted children and their families from less fortunate homes.  Families can apply for a spot at the camp through the social workers at each of the Childrens’ Hospitals, and they are selected together with Philoptochos.

Camp Agape is a special place where families have the opportunity to enjoy four carefree summer days, away from the sights and sounds of doctors, laboratories, and hospitals, where they spend so much of their lives. Children and their families engage in hands-on group activities that provide a reprieve from their daily challenges. For children and their families, this is a truly therapeutic camp experience.

Funding for this ministry is raised throughout the year from many different events.  The largest event takes place in Southern California annually, called Agape Celebration of Love. At this afternoon luncheon, the money raised by each Philoptochos Chapter within the Metropolis of San Francisco is presented to His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos. Yearly, the donations regularly total 250K!  The funding is not spent on administration costs and goes straight to funding the families who attend the camp.  Additionally, the funding supports oncology transportation programs in San Diego and Orange counties, providing families rides to and from the hospital through the Emilio Nares Foundation.  Please continue to support and pray for this special ministry. More information:  http://www.sfphiloptochos.org/

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OCN Team is comprised of these gifted authors, teachers, thinkers, priests, parents, young adults and human beings at the Orthodox Christian Network.