In Marin / CONVERSATION
other side. We all cheered and cried. It was one
of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. At
that moment, I knew I was at home.
How do parents of young cancer patients hear
about Okizu? Our children come from all over
Northern California: Marin, the Peninsula
and San Francisco and also Sacramento and
Sonoma County. Parents are referred to us
by the pediatric oncology doctors of Kaiser
Permanente, Sutter Health, UCSF Benioff
Children’s Hospital, Lucile Packard Children’s
Hospital Stanford, UC Davis Medical Center
and other Northern California hospitals that
have a pediatric oncology department.
What are typical activities? Gosh, just about
everything that any summer camp would
offer: there’s a ropes course, there’s archery,
boating, hiking, fishing and nightly campfires.
A really popular activity is called Baseball
Lunch. It takes place on day two, when campers often get homesick. What makes it fun is
everyone wears their favorite baseball shirts
and caps and the counselors mime a baseball game in the lodge and that’s followed by
counselors acting as ballpark vendors while
the campers cheer for hot dogs and Cracker
Jacks. Counselors throw goodies that campers
have to catch before eating them. There is loud
music and everyone loves it.
Some camp activities sound a bit risky. What
if a young cancer patient gets injured? Or
needs to continue his or her chemotherapy?
Oh, there’s a small hospital at Camp Okizu and
a pediatric oncology doctor, and two or three
oncology nurses are present at all times when
cancer patients are attending camp. And we
do what we can to make it all look camp-like.
Our hospital is called the Inn, the medical
staff dress like camp counselors and there is a
drive-up window for wheelchairs and nightly
meds. By the way, though we have over 800
volunteers involved with our overall program,
each summer we are especially in need of male
counselors ages 18–25. Including orientation,
it’s a nine-day commitment.
Are there camps similar to Camp Okizu
elsewhere in the U. S.? Yes, but most are operated by the hospitals themselves, whereas
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the heck will
we get out