By: Rachel Dececco
A buck plopped down on a table outside the Student Union. To buy a cupcake. It’s a donation. But where does that one dollar go? Who’s on the other end of it? Who does it help? In this case, it helps pay for a young girl’s last dance, a child’s last Christmas and someone to hold a hand.
Cupcakes for a Cure, a University of Central Florida student organization, tables twice a month outside the union. According to club President Hansee Karamchandani, all of the proceeds from the cupcakes go to an organization called BASE Camp, an Orlando-based children’s cancer foundation that provides year round support for children suffering from cancer and other life threatening illnesses.
The foundation puts on events throughout the year, and collects donations for their members. Karamchandani said the best part of the club is “forming the relationships” that help “fuel her drive” to raise money for the children and families supported by BASE Camp.
Jackie Ellis is the director of development for the facility. She heard about BASE Camp through its prom event.
Jackie’s daughter, Simone Ellis, had been diagnosed with aggressive fibromatosis. The disease is marked by the slow growth of tumors in cells that are meant to protect vital organs such as the lungs and liver.
According to Jackie, when she was 17 years old, her daughter received an invitation from BASE Camp to attend their annual prom.
“We thought she would be shuffled into a room with younger kids, bad music, and cheap decorations,” Jackie said. “She did the typical teenager thing, complained and rolled her eyes. I told her she should go, and if she didn’t like it, I would pick her up.”
Simone went. At midnight, Jackie did get a call, just not the one she expected. Her daughter called to say she was “having a blast.”
Jackie said she was shocked. She “never heard her, [Simone,] sound so excited and happy.”
Eventually Simone started going to more events and her mom started to volunteer. Jackie ended up becoming executive director for eight years.
“BASE Camp is there to hold your hand,” Jackie said. “It’s not just a slogan.”
When 26-year-old Simone was suddenly hospitalized, Jackie knew this was her daughter’s last hospital visit.
That night Jackie said she made two phone calls. One was to BASE Camp founder Terri Jones-Robbins. The other was to director of programs, Cindy Whitaker. Jackie said both Whitaker and Robbins rushed to the hospital. “That night inside the hospital room, they held Simone’s hand with me as she died,” Jackie said.
“BASE Camp is smaller than similar organizations, but we have twice the heart,” Jackie said.
BASE Camp offers an enormous amount of services and holds events throughout the year for the families associated with them. By doing this, the foundation is constantly involved in the lives of the families involved. Dinner and movie nights are planned for kids who are in the hospital and want a taste of the outside world.
A food pantry is also filled for families who have had to give up their jobs to look after their sick kids. Another event is an annual Christmas party held in December and July. BASE Camp grants wishes for kids who have overcome cancer and second wishes for kids who have relapsed. The list is immense.
Rick and Diana Barnum have only one word to describe their experience at BASE Camp: “amazing,” 61-year-old Diana said. She and her husband Rick, 65, have been volunteering for about eight months.
Jessie Kendrick, 32, started volunteering around the same time as the Barnum family. She describes her experience as “something out of this world.”
After Kendrick’s first night she stated she was “energized by how playful, and funny he kids were.”
Tthere was a little boy who was leaving, and as he was walking out the door he turned to me and said BYE Felisha! After that I was hooked,” Kendrick recalled.