What could be better for healing for a cancer survivor than surfing, music, art?

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Changing Fate partners with Athletes 4 Cancer to put ukuleles in the hands of Camp Koru participants for healing through musical art.

CHNGNF8.org, or “Changing Fate”, is a nonprofit organization whose sole purpose is dedicated to providing cancer survivors and their caregivers free access to the tools they need to communicate what it means to survive, through art. Athletes 4 Cancer inspires life renewal through the healing powers of outdoor adventure in the ocean and the mountains. Together, the two organizations are uniting their gifts of survivor empowerment to impact 60 young lives at Athletes 4 Cancer’s Camp Koru in Maui, Hawaii, starting next week.

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Changing Fate reached out to Athletes 4 Cancer with their 1,000 Ukes of Light campaign, which seeks to put a ukulele in the hands of cancer survivors and their caregivers, as a means to promote wellness, healing, and self-expression. Recognizing that surfing and ukuleles go hand-in-hand, Changing Fate found Athletes 4 Cancer’s Camp Koru Surf & SUP Camp for Cancer Survivors to be the perfect home for ukuleles to help change lives.

Changing Fate donated 30 ukuleles to Athletes 4 Cancer’s Spring camp program, and hopes to donate 30 more to their Fall camp program.

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Tracy E. Thomas, CEO and founder of Changing Fate explains –

“These small, simple, and easy to learn instruments give the user the ability to transform themselves from victim to Survival Artist. Once those in need receive their gift of healing, we reach out to them again by providing quality knowledge, instruction, and guidance in how to play their new instrument, provided by professionals in the field.”

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Thomas is a cancer survivor himself and is lead guitarist and vocalist for the group. Whether drawing, painting, doodling, filming, screaming, pounding or strumming, Changing Fate wants to help survivors make that happen as a means to communicate their story to the world at large.

Athletes 4 Cancer runs six Camp Koru sessions each year for cancer survivors, funded solely by individual, corporate and private donations. Adventures range from surfing and paddling in Hawaii, to skiing, snowboarding and yoga in Oregon. For more information, check out athletes4cancer.org and CHNGNF8.org.

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Gratitude from camp

We just finished up our first of two spring survivorship retreats here at Camp Koru, and I just received an email from one our campers that I had to share.

I want to express my gratitude for the extraordinary experience of being a part of Camp Koru this past week in Maui. I was so in my element, being active in surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, swimming, eating fabulous, healthy food, relaxing and being closer to nature, and most importantly, sharing stories and being with other cancer survivors. All of these parts of camp were rejuvenating and healing. My anxieties and worries dissipated for that entire week. I felt freer and more open. 
 
There is a quality of compassion and truth amongst people who understand the fragility of mortality. As survivors, it seems that we grow a new level of intensity in experiencing the world and the people around us, that can actually make us feel more alone. It is so important to me to have a support system and simply be amongst others who share similar experiences. And even better to challenge ourselves to new physical and mental accomplishments together, like surfing and stand up paddle boarding. We were able to genuinely express ourselves and our identities as cancer survivors. To me, living in this place of ‘realness’ is bliss. 
 
I am thankful for everything you do to help others who struggle as survivors. I am so inspired by your bravery and strength in turning a tragedy into wonderful opportunities for others. I would love to volunteer or help this organization flourish in any way that I can. Being a part of the cause is necessary for me. 
 
Thank you thank you thank you,
 
Wolf Rider (aka “Marisa”)
 
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Amazing what is happening long after camp is over.

camp10-10.31lg-1453A huge thanks to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, The North Face, and the many individual donors who contributed throughout 2013 to make Camp Koru a huge success. Thank you to all!!

Below is a brief graphic report on our major impact to date. We measure the impact and effectiveness of our programs by the quality of the outcomes, not the quantity. Testimonials are one of our most powerful measures, and walking the talk is even more important. When attendees of Camp Koru leave camp and integrate back into normal life, most often there is a shift in direction. About 50% of our ambassadors report that they have either volunteered in their own cancer community or played a lead role in taking action in the cancer awareness and/or survivorship arenas. Inspiring leadership, passion and philanthropy in our ambassadors’ community is one of the goals of Camp Koru. As a value we aim to nurture and strengthen long after camp, volunteerism has an impact that touches thousands more lives than just the one we served.

Thank you for your support. If you are so inspired to make more impact, we could use your help for upcoming camp programs. Please consider making a donation here.  Happy New Year & we hope to see you again in 2014!

Athletes 4 Cancer 2013 Camp KoruAthletes 4 Cancer creates life-changing experiences for young adult cancer fighters and survivors through outdoor adventure programs that challenge, support, and inspire individuals to rebuild their lives after cancer.

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Athletes 4 Cancer is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, IRS tax ID #42-1737854. We fund our event and charities solely through tax-deductible contributions from private individuals, corporations and foundations. For more information on Camp Koru and Athletes 4 Cancer, go to athletes4cancer.org.

Camp Koru from behind Luna’s Lens

As a photographer, I fully endorse the old saying “ a picture is worth a thousand words.” That being the case, I could go on for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of words about the incredible week in Maui spent amongst 20 incredible young adult cancer survivors and volunteers that was Athletes 4 Cancer’s Camp Koru 7.

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Since that would require a full-length novel, rather than a newsletter, I invite you to step behind the lens to see what I saw – the incredible beauty, determination, and resilience of some amazing human beings determined to live life to the fullest, despite some serious roadblocks thrown up along the way.

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A cancer survivor of 13 years myself, I was excited and honored to be a part of this program as camp volunteer and photographer, and I remember thinking nervously on my way out to Maui that I hoped my photos would do the experience justice, that I would be able to adequately capture the beauty and spirit and importance of the journey for the participants.  Turns out that was needless worry –  we could not have asked for a more beautiful, healing, nurturing environment than the rolling hills, bamboo forests, and warm inviting waters of Maui.

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As for the participants – I was, with each passing day, simply stunned by the images appearing on my screen, as I realized how easy they made my job. The excitement and pure joy as they stood up on a surfboard for the first time, stand-up-paddled with sea turtles, or simply goofed around on the beach with new friends radiated pure and true, straight through the lens.  I was simply reflecting the incredible beauty and radiance emanating from some remarkable human beings. I saw childlike glee and smiles light up the faces of these young people who have already had to experience much beyond their years.

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One of the most amazing aspects of camp was how it brought the participants together – some of them told me they had never personally been in the company of other young adult cancer survivors. Although everyone had different backgrounds, diagnoses, stories and prognoses, it was evident that a special bond formed between them in a very short period of time, but will undoubtedly last a lifetime. Thinking back to my cancer diagnosis at age 19, my heart was filled with happiness that everyone at Camp Koru had received and embraced, with open arms, such a special opportunity.

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As a certified scuba diving instructor and underwater photographer who has had the good fortune to live, dive, surf and play in various oceans worldwide, I have long known the healing power of the water. To bear witness to my fellow survivors experiencing this – some of them for the first time – well, in this instance pictures ARE truly worth a thousand words! The warm waters of Maui carried us as we stood tall on the surf boards, supported us as we swam with sea turtles, and blessed us with traditional Hawaiian prayers. We probably did more in and on the water in the space of a week than many people have the chance to do in their entire lifetimes – surfing, stand up paddling, snorkeling, whale watching, outrigger canoeing – each day was packed in from sunup to sundown and I for one went to sleep blissfully exhausted each night.

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Before we turned in each night, we all gathered around the campfire for tiki time – a chance to slow down, breathe deep, gaze up at the stars, and reflect upon the amazing experiences, achievements, realizations and discoveries of the day.  Connecting and reconnecting – with our peers, as fellow cancer survivors – with ourselves, as human beings, with all of our struggles, challenges, imperfections, conquests, victories, smiles, tears, sadness and joy. We laughed, we cried, we hugged, we surfed our brains out – and I think we all left feeling just a little bit lighter. Some of us back to jobs, others back to school, and yet others back to treatment.  But despite the geographic distance which now separates us, we remain united as an “ohana,” strengthened by this unexpected consequence of the curveball life threw us. And for this, I say – MAHALO! ALOHA!

~ Tamar/Luna

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“Faces of survivorship” – 5253, 6473, 5327, 4896, 4792, 6463

The North Face Awards Explore Fund Grant to Athletes 4 Cancer – supports a national effort to increase outdoor exploration among young adults affected by cancer

We are so stoked to have North Face as a supporting partner in our Camp Koru program!! Here’s the full press release…

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Hood River, OR – January 10, 2012 – The North Face, has awarded an Explore Fund grant to Athletes 4 Cancer (A4C) for their Camp Koru Cancer Survivorship Program. The Explore Fund’s mission is to inspire and enable the next generation of explorers by funding non-profit organizations that are working to re-connect children with nature. By encouraging an active healthy lifestyle and protection of our natural landscapes, a stronger connection of youth and young adults to the outdoors can be nurtured.

Camp Koru’s primary focus is to help rebuild lives after cancer.  A4C uses adventure-based experiences such as surfing, outrigger canoeing, standup paddling and snowboarding, as channels of healing and life-renewal that treat the mind, body, and soul. Athletes for Cancer’s programs, such as Camp Koru, aim to help young survivors not just survive, but thrive in all aspects of life.  Athletes 4 Cancer was selected from more than 900 applications submitted for the first of two grant cycles in 2012.

Since The North Face Explore Fund was initiated in 2010, The North Face has provided more than $1 Million in grants to non-profits all over the world working to connect youth to the outdoors, with more than three quarters of that going to programs in the United States.

We are very pleased and grateful to receive support from The North Face Explore Fund,” said Tonia Farman, executive director of Athletes 4 Cancer. “We truly believe in the physical, emotional and social benefits of connecting young people with the outdoors, and this funding will help us continue to provide that experience to young cancer survivors.”

The Camp Koru program was established in 2010 to further expand A4C’s mission of harnessing the healing power of the elements with outdoor adventure. Since it’s founding, the program has run six camp programs that focus on, and directly impact, small groups of 16 survivors each.  Set in a safe and supportive environment, participants are first instructed with the proper tools, then encouraged to make their own confident decisions in the ocean (surfing, standup paddling) just as in life. These individuals discover that they can overcome fears of something they never thought they could do, sharing their experiences with their peers at camp, and leaving with a new outlook on facing life after cancer. The impact reaches beyond camp, inspiring participants to be agents and change and embrace life while influencing friends, family, and other survivors, to do the same.

Athletes 4 Cancer has been able to advance the mission exponentially with the support of partner organizations such as the John Wayne Cancer Foundation (JWCF) and the Seattle Foundation. JWCF and Athletes 4 Cancer share a mutual vision for harnessing the healing powers of physical activity and the outdoors in the fight against cancer.  This synergy led to JWCF support and inspiration to Athletes 4 Cancer for launching the Camp Koru program.

“There can be so many barriers to getting kids outdoors, whether it be a disability, health resources or simply a lack of access. A large percentage of the grants went toward funding organizations that are addressing these issues by providing access and education,” said Ann Krcik, director of Outdoor Exploration at The North Face. “We believe that if you can get kids to love the outdoors, not only will they develop skills that will help them throughout life, but they will grow up to care about their natural world, protecting and conserving the wild places they explore”

Camp Koru will launch on March 17, 2013 for two sessions in Maui, Hawaii. To learn more about Athletes 4 Cancer and Camp Koru visit http://www.athletes4cancer.org   For more information about The North Face Explore Fund, please visit www.explorefund.org

About Athletes 4 Cancer

Athletes 4 Cancer is dedicated to enriching lives impacted by cancer through the healing power of the elements and the tenacity of the human spirit. Essentially, Athletes 4 Cancer rebuilds lives after cancer. Athletes 4 Cancer focuses on rebuilding and renewing lives after cancer through outdoor adventure.

About The North Face®

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The North Face, a division of VF Outdoor, Inc., was founded in 1968. Headquartered in San Leandro, California, the company offers the most technically advanced products in the market to accomplished climbers, mountaineers, snowsport athletes, endurance athletes, and explorers. The company’s products are sold in specialty mountaineering, backpacking, running, and snowsport retailers, premium-sporting goods retailers and major outdoor specialty retail chains.