When there is a need, there is a way. Dr. Ronald Oseas knew his patients needed more assistance and access to services to help with social, emotional, financial, psychological, and educational support services, and why he created the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation (NCCF) in 1993. As the first pediatric oncologist in Las Vegas, his vision was to help lead ALL critically ill children and their families down the new path life had thrown at them.
Over the past 24 years the program has grown from just one program of helping 18 children at its first summer camp (known as Camp Cartwheel), to providing support to over 450 kids and their families, as well as over 950 adults touched by cancer living in Southern Nevada. With over 45 programs and services, the NCCF is completely funded by donations and some sought after grants, with 91 cents of every dollar goes back into the programs and services.
“What we do here has a purpose,” were the words spoken by CEO Jeffrey Gordon. “What we do here is done with love and sensitivity. This is not just a job to people who work here.” One of the shining stars of their programs, according to Mr. Gordon is Camp Cartwheel- the largest camp in the western United States for critically ill children and their siblings.
“One day I had the pleasure of picking up a 12-year-old boy and driving him to camp.” On his third relapse, the young man had been looking forward to attending camp. That 45 minute drive to/from camp was one of the most poignant moments in Gordon’s career. The young man expressed his gratitude for the camp, and for his mom and dad. “His strength and courage enlightened me. I believe our camp has a way to transcend horrible and lonely feelings and touch the lives of not only the attendees, but the volunteers,” Mr. Gordon offered. The young man, Brandon, returned to his heavenly home a few short weeks after that visit.
The camp held on the 42 acre Torino Ranch, donated for use by good hearted-man Brett Torino. It is a camp for children ages 5-17, with over 180 volunteers. It builds self-esteem and offers a place for kids to meet other like minded kids- you know those with illness or siblings of those ill. Allowing them a chance to play and talk to others who understand, who “get them.” Camp Cartwheel provides a sense of belonging to the young kids.
Every year there is a Las Vegas Metro Police Officer who takes a week vacation from work to volunteer at the camp. Every year. Why? Because in his day job, everyday in life, he sees the dark side in people. The reason he says he comes to Camp Cartwheel is “to wash the mud from his soul.”
Over the years Mr. Gordon has seen five or six kids who have willed themselves to live longer, just to have one more Camp Cartwheel experience. It is special that this program can have such a meaningful impact on so many, where kids are empowered with such an inner strength that even the donors can sense it during their yearly visit for lunch and interaction with the kids.
Not limited to Camp Cartwheel, the programs at NCCF are designed to bring out the best for everyone. Within 24-48 hours of referral, the patient and family are part of the NCCF family, and the work has started to identity the needs and services for everyone involved. “When someones world is turned upside down, people are embarking on a journey they know little about. We go to work to navigate the waters so they don’t have to.”
Recently (November 2017), with the help of Britney Spears raising over a million dollars, they were able to bring everything under one roof, Opening the Britney Spears Campus located at 3711 Sunset Road in Las Vegas. NCCF plans to focus on solidifying and bolstering existing programs in 2018, however does have a plan to add one new program, ‘Parenting Through Disease.’
This no cost program in Southern Nevada is the guiding light in what otherwise seems like a very dark place.
For more information about Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation visit their website at http://nvccf.org/.