Why I Serve as Camp Director
John Burke – In His Own Words
Sometimes you need an escape from the everyday, the hustle and bustle, the stress, the responsibilities. But what if you also needed an escape from something as overwhelming and consuming as cancer treatment? I have understood this desire to take a vacation from cancer treatment since 2006 when I was first diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Thanks to the Me-One Foundation, a nonprofit headquartered in Roseville, adult cancer patients can take advantage of an annual three-day weekend retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains where 35 campers can bring up to five of their support people to enjoy a weekend free of not only cost, but the stress of their cancer battle.
I attended the retreat, known as Camp Wieser (named after the founder, Heidi Wieser), during the camp’s inaugural year. I celebrated the fact that I was still here and I was well enough be at the camp with my daughters and wife. The weekend was wonderfully full of many great activities from musical entertainment and a full-service spa to arts and crafts. The experience that struck me the most; however, was speaking with my fellow campers, learning more about their own cancer battles and life perspectives. I was able to see first-hand the impact Camp Wieser had on their confidence, determination and strength of spirit. I knew I needed to get involved, so I began volunteering my time as Camp Director while the rest of my family continued to attend the camp as volunteers and family hosts. As Camp Director, I’ve aided in relocating the retreat to its current location, ensuring each family has private accommodations to secure their comfort and dignity while battling this disease.
For me, giving back to the Me-One Foundation and the campers at Camp Wieser has been more than healing; it has allowed me to see an additional worth to my life. Each camper I have met or helped has touched my heart and given me the strength to forge on in my own battle with cancer, a challenge I feel more confident in with each passing year. I am also confident that my experience allows me to serve the families in ways that I would not otherwise be able to serve them. I know that they want the opportunity to escape the cancer battle and a chance to avoid the sad faces they’ve grown accustomed to seeing each day. My goal is that campers leave Camp Wieser with hope in their heart and determination to continue enjoying life through the sometimes overwhelming burden of cancer treatment.
We are now approaching our 11th camp and my 8th as Camp Director. It is my goal to inform as many people as possible of this camp, in the hopes of providing a much-needed respite from their daily lives.