Monday, July 6, 2009

Grateful brother raises $1,800 for camp

Jake Aschenbrenner and his little sister Jenna are going back to Camp CARE later this month, as they have for the past three summers.

The camp is for children who had -- or have -- cancer. At 21 months, Jenna (at the left of the wagon) was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, cancer of the eye. She went through Chemotherapy and lost her right eye.

She recently turned 8.

Her cancer is her ticket into Camp CARE (Cancer Ain't Really the End), and since Jake is her brother, he gets to go too.

The camp was started in 1985 by health-care professionals from Carolinas Medical Center and Presbyterian Hospital. It is staffed by volunteers and funded by donations, providing more than 100 campers yearly with a normal camping experience.

"It is such a wonderful opportunity for not only the camper, but also the sibling who typically gets completely forgotten when a child gets cancer," said Jake's mother, Karen. "... When children go through cancer it is life-changing -- who they are changes. Jenna was in and out of the hospital getting scanned, poked with needles and being sedated for different procedures ... Camp CARE provides a place for these kids to go to camp."

Here's where 10-year-old Jake (pulling the wagon), a rising 5th grader at Providence Spring Elementary, became sort of a modern-day Tom Sawyer. After last summer's camp, he kept thinking about the 70-foot water slide and how all the fun at Camp CARE helped kids forget they were sick.

He wanted to give back. Spotting boxes of Camp CARE water bottles in the garage, he told his parents he was going to go door-to-door around his southeast Charlotte neighborhood and sell the bottles. He set a lofty goal: To raise $1,000.

He borrowed a red wagon from a neighbor, loaded up the bottles and off he and Jenna went. Along the way, friends asked him what he was doing. He told them: "OK, guys, you know my sister had cancer and she goes to this really cool camp. I want to give back so this camp can help other kids with cancer. So I'm selling these bottles. You wanna help?"

They did, and one by one they fell in line on bikes, on skateboards and scooters and on foot.

When they returned to Jake's home, they had raised more than $1,000. After Jake's and Jenna's relatives chipped in, Jake had raised $1,800 for Camp CARE. Most of the bottles were still in his wagon. Donors gave him money, but declined a bottle so Jake and his pals could sell them to someone else.
When he delivered the money, camp officials told him he'd raised more money than anyone.

Jake said he learned an important lesson:

"It puts you down to Earth," he said. "Sometimes you take things for granted, and then I start thinking about all the different kids who have cancer. So I try to be nice to everyone. I didn't want to just raise money, I wanted people to know about the camp, too, and the nice things it does for kids."

If you want to help out Jake, Jenna and Camp CARE, go here to make a donation online, or make out a check to Camp CARE and mail it to Camp CARE, P.O. Box 35072, Charlotte, N.C. 28235.
Mission Possible comes through: The Girl Scouts Hornets' Nest Council had received its first $100 in donations by 9 a.m. after the organization was spotlighted in the Observer's Mission Possible package today, and on a newscast of the Observer's news partner, WCNC-TV.