Fighting cancer is a battle that requires phenomenal strength. Often, “fun” is a concept that can be neglected during an arduous battle with illness, especially for the most vulnerable: children. When cancer strikes a child, additional support is needed to help them maintain the youth and joy that they’re entitled to. Recently, we had the privilege of speaking with the C.E.O. of ATC Manufacturing and one of the founders of the Sweethearts’ Ball–the main funding vehicle of Camp Journey–Jacob Bonwell. What started out as a small idea, created an exciting opportunity to foster fun amidst hardship.
The Origins of the Sweethearts’ Ball
Somewhere in a living room pre-2012, Jacob and his friends stewed over their futures. Amidst their plans and daydreams, one idea consistently stood out. A few years prior, Jacob’s friend Brandon received a college scholarship from Camp Rainbow Gold, a camp Brandon attended while battling childhood cancer. Each had experienced the destructive effects of cancer in their own lives, but this generous scholarship provided hope. One thought kept replaying: if Camp Rainbow Gold could provide kids happiness, how can we keep spreading this happiness?
Thus, the Sweethearts’ Ball was established in 2012. Jacob and his friend Nick Leonard co-founded this gala event to celebrate and raise funds for children who battle cancer related illnesses. Featuring an inventive theme every year, the ball gathers local benefactors for a three course meal, silent auction, special guest speakers, and exciting awards. In just 10 years of celebration, the Sweethearts’ Ball has raised $800,000. Initially, these proceeds were donated to send cancer-affected children to summer programs like Camp Rainbow Gold. But eventually, Jacob and Nick helped develop their own “home-away-from-home:” Camp Journey.
About Camp Journey
Each year, Camp Journey hosts approximately 120 children aged 7-17 for a week of summer fun. Every child receives an entirely funded week to just be a kid. Camp Journey creates a unique experience by providing complete medical supervision for campers, including two oncologists and a full nursing staff. This way, campers can receive their scheduled treatments and medication while remaining on an all-inclusive summer vacation.
Camp Journey’s mission statement particularly emphasizes the importance of fun and happiness for children, no matter their circumstances. So they pack in the fun with endless activities, including kayaking, mountain biking, cooking classes, swimming, climbing, and jumping from the massive water trampoline. Camp Journey strives to foster a happy, incomparable community that makes kids want to return year after year. Older teens attending camp (aged 16-17) can participate in Camp Journey’s “Leader in Training” program; they are given roles and responsibilities like the camp volunteers, but still get to play and participate in activities. They are also given extra privileges like a late night pizza fund–an opportunity to just be a teen. Every year, several teens who complete the Leader in Training program as campers will come back as volunteers, continuing the cycle of giving back.
Camp Journey continues to thrive in conjunction with the Sweethearts’ Ball. In its 10 years, the Sweethearts’ Ball has sent over 1,200 kids to camp fully funded. The generosity of the guests keeps the camp overflowing with happiness and fun, and continues increasing with each passing year.
To learn more about this wonderful organization, click here.