We Talk About Cancer, But We Can Still Make You Smile: Testimonials from Camp Koru

By: Tonia Farman

For each one of you who has ever given a dime to Athletes 4 Cancer, thank you. It has transformed lives. Here’s a quick reminder of what you’ve done. 

 I see your donations at work every time a survivor stands up on a surfboard with their post-cancer body; every time a survivor plucks up the courage to share their cancer story around the campfire; every time I read testimonials from Camp Koru alumni.

KORU_TKraftLeboe_AO0W2910-LRReading testimonials from our camps makes me smile, cry (with happiness) and laugh. I hope it will do the same for you. Here are some of the latest testimonials we’ve received from our 2015 camps:

I was feeling stuck in a rut after treatment. Going to Camp Koru tossed me out of that rut into the ocean! The supportive community that was around me helped me to relax deeply and challenge myself! I returned home feeling peaceful, invigorated, and loved. –Star

Everything about Camp Koru is beautiful. Beautiful Maui, the ocean, the surf, and the people who exude a beautiful, peaceful, positive healing environment for the campers. The best thing about Camp Koru is there’s no pressure. No pressure to share stories, until you’re ready, no pressure to surf if your body achy. As an introvert, I felt comfortable in my own skin from the minute I arrived. That doesn’t happen often. The staff is laid back, witty, and caring. The food is out-of-this-world. Life long friends were made, sleeping under the stars, on a beach in Maui. How much better can it get? Camp Koru was a time for me to heal, reflect, and finally move forward from my cancer diagnosis and treatment. –Mino

I met so many incredible cancer survivors and cancer survivors at Camp Koru.  Their friendship is what I value more than anything else. –Scuba

I made some lasting friendships, thrilled to the stunning natural beauty of Maui, got to surf and SUP and try some new things, and was surrounded by love and support and understanding for a full week. It was invigorating and rejuvenating, and it gave me strength to move forward. –Ripley

Koru was the positive force I needed to help me through treatment for triple negative breast cancer. As a surfer, I was crushed to be out of the water over a year and, though I barely had strength to stand up with lymphedema at 5 weeks post-surgery, having the help and support of the Koru Camp 6 Ohana fellow survivors was an essential step. –Koa

IMG_1176 (2)Thank you to all the donations, support, guidance counselors, and all those who helped make this trip become such a life-altering trip. I now have upwards of 20 new friends thanks to this camp. I would do anything for them and welcome them to my home as part of my family. –Renegade

I attended Camp Koru’s surf/SUP camp in Maui. What an amazing experience! It’s been a dream of mine to learn to surf and travel to Hawaii, and I never thought a cancer diagnosis was the thing that was going to bring me there. It was a truly unique experience to be able to live out this dream with other survivors who I was so inspired by. Since having this experience it has impacted my life by gaining strength and inspiration from other survivors to continue to live life to it’s fullest. –Flora

These words are proof that Athletes 4 Cancer is achieving what we set out to do: help survivors reclaim their life after cancer! We’re feeding souls and giving inspiration and healing. It’s truly incredible.

You can support us by making a donation here.


Dear Everybody. Topic: Thank-you letters. Does anyone read them?


I’m sure my parents wish I continued a career in broadcast journalism or advertising versus giving my soul (and nearly my house and car) to the world of non-profit work. (Side note: I did donate a car to NPR once, but I believe that was more to my benefit than their’s.) However, one thing my parents would be proud of is raising me with manners — have a firm handshake, look into people’s eyes when speaking/listening, ask to be excused, and at the top of the list — write thank-you letters.

This last one, most would challenge, can be written-off (no pun intended) and excused with the acceptance and expectance of digital communication. This, I used to feel, was not acceptable. I love getting thank-you letters. It’s the process and effort that someone takes to send a letter (via the US postal service) that often resonates more appreciation to me than the actual content of the letter. But then there’s the issue of unnecessary waste, not being environmentally-conscious, and a waste of money?

To date in 2012, I have sent out 804 thank-you letters on 804 pieces of paper, requiring 804 envelopes and $378.36 worth of postage. Do the math and you’ll see that doesn’t work out to .44 cents per letter because I also send them to Mexico and Canada, which cost .85 cents. This doesn’t include the cost of letterhead, labels & envelopes or the cost of printer ink, which is always highway robbery.  Nor does it include the hours of envelope-licking (we even have a tool for that), adhering labels, and stamping.

Now, on the other side of the thank-you letter topic… I could so easily write and schedule an email thank-you by the stroke of a few keys with a very personal and genuine message from your’s truly.  I get the checks and see every donation that comes in.  My words in those email newsletters are real and written by me even though you may think otherwise. Furthermore, when I send things via email, I get instant gratification and replies from caring and appreciative supporters! It’s so instantly rewarding! When I send a letter in the mail, I have never received anything back but “Unable to Forward. Return to Sender,” which really bums me out.

So, all that being said, I ask the question… does anyone read the thank-you letters I send? And, is it a waste or refreshing? Would you rather get a thank-you in your gmail inbox that you can quickly reply-to or delete without taking out the trash? Please advise. For now, I continue with the paper. However, I know I’ll get your input via an email (info at athletes4cancer.org) or a reply to this blog, but not in a letter form in the mail. 🙂


Tonia Farman
Director of Good Things
Athletes for Cancer
tonia (at) athletes4cancer.org