Each year on my birthday I make a wish – a wish that every child wishing to attend Youth Rally, a non-profit, patient advocacy camp for teens living with one of 54 medical diagnoses of the bowel and bladder, (like Crohn’s disease, Hirshprung’s disease, spina bifida, cloacal extrophy, ulcerative colitis, familial polyposis, and others) has the financial means to do so and that, once they get there, they have a once-in-a-lifetime experience that keeps them coming back year after year. It is the best way I know how to honor the thousands of campers and counselors whose lives have been touched by the Youth Rally in its 39 years of existence.
YOU helped make that wish come true in 2016! Together we raised over $65,000 for my wish last year - I challenge us again this year to beat it with a goal of 75K! As usual, I am launching this fundraiser with my first $5000.00 donation and the wish that no matter how small, $10, $25, $50 or how large, we will continue to be able to support ANY child, from ANYWHERE in the WORLD to have the opportunity to experience our Youth Rally.
You see, when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of 13 ( that was 44 years ago), we did not have Youth Rally. Being a volunteer and a part of Youth Rally since 1986 is my way of doing my part to help others who may feel alone, and help them to realize that there is an amazing support network available for them. Indeed, we are a global support network that meets once a year for a little over a week each summer, and we bring together teens (and adult volunteer counselors, and nurses and doctors) from virtually all over the globe to share our stories, compassion, how-to’s, friendship and our life-times of experiences to help each other thrive, despite our medical diagnoses, surgical procedures, and life’s ups and downs.
Last year at Youth Rally, I met a special young person, who came from a special circumstance. One lunchtime when I asked “what is your favorite thing at Youth Rally?”, my heartstrings were tugged, indeed yanked, when the answer was “ the food”. I discovered that we were providing a luxury to this camper: three meals a day. While, as I mentioned, this was a special circumstance, knowing that there may be many other special circumstances for families these days, and knowing that we can provide a fun place to spend a week together, and give parents the comfort of knowing their child is safe, secure and in a place where he/she is NOT alone….well, that’s all any of us need to know to continue our journey to offer this experience to whoever wants to join us, despite the special circumstance. Your donation helps Youth Rally help others…the ONLY place your dollars go is to our campers, because we are a 100 percent volunteer organization, where 100 percent of those who serve do so as volunteers, indeed, pay their own way to Youth Rally each summer, and raise money for campers. The majority of our volunteers share the same diagnoses as our campers, and many of our adult volunteers were indeed campers themselves at Youth Rally.
Year after year, thanks to the recruitment efforts of our tireless volunteers, we host campers and counselors from all over the US and Canada, and from as far as the UK, Belgium, and Russia! We are all about "You are not alone". We offer supportive programming that boosts self-esteem and gives these teens the tools they need to be independent and thrive in a world that embraces their diversity and celebrates their accomplishments both as campers at Youth Rally but also as adult counselors at the very place that served them as campers.
Please join me in helping a kid attend this year's Youth Rally at San Diego State University for our 39th year! The cost for tuition for one participant is $450.00 - now add travel expenses and the price for one child can quickly exceed $1200.00!
Words alone can never express the gratitude I feel for your generosity when looking into the eyes of a child who is realizing, perhaps for the first time, that they are not alone in this world – that the very thing that makes them “different” makes them AMAZING!!!!! One of my favorite sessions at camp is the one where the kids write their thank you letters to sponsors – like YOU! –I get to see the joy on their faces as they reflect upon the time they’ve spent with their new-found “family”. I hope that those of you who have contributed in the past enjoy receiving those letters as much as I do.
(NOTE: You can surpass FirstGiving Admin Fees by placing your donation directly at http://www.youthrally.org/donate / - just be sure to mention somewhere that it was for my Birthday Wish!)
THANK YOU so much for your help and support of our very special rally. With Love and Respect and Gratitude for what you do to give to our kids,
Paul J. Hastings
Volunteer Chairman and CEO, Youth Rally Committee, Inc.
Youth Rally Counselor since 1986