Fundraiser held to launch free summer day camp for kids with cancer

[Editor’s Note: Post originally appeared on SILive.com, where I was a breaking news intern from January to August 2016.]

The Jewish Community Center held the SunriseWALK at Catholic Charities of Staten Island in Pleasant Plains on Sunday in an effort to bring Sunrise Day Camp — for children with cancer and their siblings– to the borough.

If successful, the camp will be the fifth in the world able to provide free summer day camp for children with cancer and their siblings, and it’ll be the only one of its kind in New York City. There’s one in Long Island and Westchester.

“It’s a huge message to the Staten Island public that JCC and Catholic Charities are coming together for this important event,” said Vincent Ignizio, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of Staten Island. “This is 100 percent all about these kids, regardless of medical issues, to having a great time at camp. That message in and of itself is powerful.”

Oakwood resident Susan Buerkle, and her son, Jake — diagnosed with leukemia in March 2014 — said they are both looking forward to the day camp.

“10-out-of-10 on a number scale,” said Jake of his excitement about the camp.

“Here he doesn’t have to worry about anything,” said his mom. “I’m ecstatic that they’re affiliated with the hospitals, doctors and nurses because that’s one of the biggest problems no matter where I take him. …So it (would) ease my mind that he has some place to go to have fun, and all the kids are going through the same thing. Nobody is out of place. Nobody stands out from anybody else.”

The camp’s director, Chris Gomez, said they’ve already raised $131,000, and are  seeking more donations.

The expectation is that most of the camp’s attendees will be Island residents, but the camp would be open to children from other boroughs and New Jersey, organizers said.

For more information, contact Chris Gomez at 718-475-5274 or at cgomez@sijcc.com; Ilene Rosen, SunriseWALK Coordinator, at 718-475-5213 or at irosen@sijcc.com; or visit sunrise-walks.org.