NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Of all the services The Valerie Fund provides for its young patients, maybe none is as popular as Camp Happy Times.
A the camp, Thomas Kurzeja, 11, was able to return to the physical activity he had stopped after being diagnosed with leukemia.
“I did zip lining, rock climbing, waveboarding … played pool,” Thomas told WCBS 880’s John Metaxas.
Barry Friedson said he’s grateful his son, Joshua, who was also diagnosed with leukemia, can go to the camp.
“Camp Happy Times is there for them to be able to get away at a camp where they have the medical facilities to take care of the kids and really enjoy at least part of the summer,” Barry Friedson said.
For 24-year-old cancer survivor Katie Lowery Graziano, who keeps coming back as a camp counselor, the benefits are emotional.
“We’ve all gone through the same thing,” she said. “So we don’t even have to talk about it. It’s like a connection that we all have together that is unspoken.”
The Valerie Fund, which helps children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders, is hoping to raise $1 million when it holds its annual walk and 5K run Saturday at Verona Park. More than 4,000 people are expected to participate in the event, Bunny Flanders, The Valerie Fund’s director of marketing and communications said.
The nonprofit group treats about 4,000 kids throughout New York and New Jersey each year and helps create a support system for patients and their families.
Brian Brady, 13, remembers the frightening time when he first discovered he had a rare blood disorder.
“When I was in second grade, I had purple spots on my skin,” he told Metaxas.
But Brian was fortunate to have access to a Valerie Fund center.
“They were nice,” Brian said. “They helped me get through this and took care of me.”
“The people at The Valerie Fund gave us a lot of hope,” added Brian’s mother, Sharon.
Brian, who says he now feels fine, wants to give back, so he’s walking for The Valerie Fund on Saturday.
Sharon’s employer, Care One, is sponsoring a team at the event.
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