Novato nonprofit Camp Okizu offers help, hope to kids with cancer

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Cheryl Jennings


Hundreds of Bay Area families are grateful to a program that offers free summer camp for children living with cancer. Camp Okizu not only helps the children, but it also offers family camps and camps for siblings to help the entire family cope with cancer.

“There’s no way any words can explain how awesome this place is, no words at all,” said 9-year-old camper Isaac from Albany.

Isaac doesn’t let anything stop him at summer camp, in spite of brain cancer that affected one eye when he was just a little baby.

“The tumor was in there and a piece of it had to be cut out,” he said. “So I can’t see in this eye, or control where it goes.”

Isaac is at Camp Okizu, which provides free camp for kids with cancer, their siblings, and their families in a beautiful setting in the Sierra foothills.

They feel free there to share their stories with each other and with us.

An 11-year-old camper named Virginia says, “I had blood cancer, which is called leukemia, and I was 5 years old.”

Virginia had two bouts with cancer. She needed a bone marrow transplant the second time, and her sister was a perfect match.

“She was only like 4 or 5 years old and she had to get a lot of shots and tests so I’m really proud of her and I’m really glad I survived,” she said.

Twelve-year-old Ashton and his family had to make a difficult decision when he was just 8 years old and diagnosed with bone cancer.

“We decided amputation was the best idea because I could still do all athletic things still,” he said. “I run, I can do anything a normal kid can do now.”

“I was 10 years old, fifth grade, acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” said Alec Simas.

We met Alec’s younger brother and sister at siblings camp.

In 2014. Max and Elsa were very young when Alec was going in and out of the hospital. But his illness had an impact on his siblings.

Max is in a band called WJM, which donates its proceeds to Camp Okizu and other charities.