"Give Hope! Get Connected!" Raises $150,000 to Help Kids with Cancer

“Give Hope! Get Connected!” raised $150,000 for Hopecam making it the second most successful fundraiser in the organizations 11 year-history.  The dinner parlayed a theme that communicated the charity’s mission of giving hope to children with cancer by getting them connected to friends at school through the power of technology. 

Founded in 2003 by the father of a child with cancer, up until this year, Hopecam was mainly a grassroots charity helping Washington, D.C. area children in treatment for cancer by giving them computers, providing Internet access when necessary, and persuading schools to maintain a Skype video chat connection with the children when they were hospitalized or homebound.  In 2012, founder Len Forkas undertook the arduous Race Across America during which he rode his bicycle from California to Maryland in 11 days to raise the dollars necessary--$350,000 and Hopecam’s most successful fundraiser thus far—so that Hopecam can serve children from across the United States. 

From serving an average of 25 children each year, Hopecam grew to serve 58 in 2013.  Thus far in 2014, Hopecam has helped 303 children living in 34 states—making Forkas’ dream a reality—with the numbers growing every month as more children and pediatric oncology social workers learn about Hopecam’s much needed program.  Hopecam is the only charity in the world that works with schools to keep children connected to their friends and classmates through the use of technology.

With 15,780 children estimated to be diagnosed with cancer in the United States next year, the demand for Hopecam’s services is large.   Hopecam’s next fundraiser on #GivingTuesday, Dec. 2nd, will challenge people to donate a penny, a dime or a dollar for every friend they have on Facebook so that kids with cancer don’t have to be isolated from their friends.

As Hopecam Executive Director Susan Koehler explains, “Hopecam is all about friends—those social connections that support and cheer us on.  We are challenging people to donate in honor of their friendships however they want to calculate it.”

Hopecam’s goal for the #GivingTuesday Facebook Challenge is $15,780--$1 for every child who will be diagnosed with cancer in 2015.

Hopecam Now Helps Children in 33 States

This week, Hopecam received an application from a child with cancer in Nebraska.  This brings the total number of states to 33 where Hopecam is providing technology and expertise to overcome the social isolation of children who are hospitalized and homebound as a result of their cancer treatment.

A little less than 2 years ago, Hopecam was primarily a grassroots effort helping an average of 25 children each year—most of whom lived in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.  In 2013, Hopecam, under the leadership of newly hired Executive Director Susan Koehler began to put in place the infrastructure necessary so that children with cancer from across the United States could benefit from its much needed program.  That year, Hopecam more than doubled the number of children helped to 58.  In September 2013, Rachel Wheat joined Hopecam as Program Director.  Wheat is bilingual.  She brought Hopecam experience in program implementation and the ability to communicate with the large number of non-English speaking children applying for a Hopecam Connection.

Today, Hopecam is receiving 45 to 65 applications per month—a 10- fold increase in less than 18 months in the number of children served.  70% of the children helped attend schools eligible for Title 1 (low income) funding.  12% of the children live in homes without Internet access (which Hopecam provides at no cost).

Koehler explains the growth of Hopecam’s program this way:  “When a child is diagnosed with cancer, they are separated from their school and friends. During the most frightening time in their life, they can’t be with their friends, one of their most important sources of support.  Research shows that children and youth highly value social support and consider it an important component of managing their illness.

“When these supports are lacking, the effects of psychosocial problems are amplified. Internalizing behaviors such as depression and anxiety over fear of rejection by peers, social withdrawal, anger, frustration, self-blame and decreased sense of self-confidence are a few common psychosocial difficulties that children and adolescents experience as a result of a chronic illness such as cancer.

“By virtually connecting these children with their friends over Skype, Hopecam helps to decrease the loneliness and anxiety they experience during this frightening time.”

Hopecam gives each child a tablet computer on which they download Skype.  If the family does not have Internet access, Hopecam provides that.  Then staff works with the child’s school to persuade them to establish a regular Skype video chat with the child.

Hopecam is the only charity in the world that works directly with the schools of children with cancer to create a virtual link between the children and their classmates.

In November, Hopecam will hold “Give Hope! Get Connected!”—in Vienna, Virginia to help raise the money necessary to support its program expansion.  It costs about $1200 to connect each child and Hopecam has a set a goal of raising $600,000 in the next 12 months so it never has to tell a child “no.”

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Roberta Lynn Woodgate, “The Importance of Being There: Perspectives of Social Support by Adolescents with Cancer,” Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing 23, no.3 (May-June 2006): 123-134. http://aphon.org/files/public/art4_perspectives_social_support.pdf

Lalita K. Suzuki and Pamela M. Kato, “Psychosocial Support for Patients in Pediatric Oncology: The Influences of Parents, Schools, Peers, and Technology,” Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing 20, no.4 (July- August 2003):159-174. https://www.center-school.org/pko/documents/influences.pdf

Hopecam Expanding to Colorado

Charity Founder and Author Len Forkas Shares His Story of Fatherhood and Fortitude at Boulder Full Cycle on Thursday

Hopecam Currently Helps 5 Colorado Kids with Cancer Stay Connected to Friends

Full Cycle Bikes to host speaker Len Forkas, founder of non-profit Hopecam currently helping 5 Colorado Kids with Cancer Stay Connected to Friends.  Leadville Series pulls Forkas to Colorado… along with sharing his passion and his mission.

In 2002, when entrepreneur Len Forkas learned his nine-year-old son had leukemia, his own life changed forever.  In 2003, Len founded Hopecam, a nonprofit that uses technology to connect young cancer patients with their friends at school to combat social isolation.  Hopecam helps children with cancer in 32 states, including 5 being treated at Colorado Children’s Hospital in Aurora.

Turning to exercise to help cope with the stress of his son’s illness, Len began competing in endurance races to raise awareness and resources to help Hopecam reach more children. In 2012, he qualified as a solo competitor in what is widely known as “the toughest bike race in the world.”  Race Across America is a 3,000-mile bike race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD, that must be completed in twelve days.  Len finished in 11 days.

Len wrote a book about this experience, What Spins the Wheel, and will share his story at Full Cycle Bicycle Store this Thursday, August 14 at 7:30 p.m.  Full Cycle is located at 1795 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80302.

Forkas is in Colorado to complete the last leg of the Leadman series, the 100 Miles Race in Leadville this Friday and Saturday.  Forkas is dedicating his run to raise money to help more Colorado children with cancer.  Last weekend, Forkas finished the 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race and a 10K Run.  In July, he completed a marathon and 50 mile bike ride.

In What Spins the Wheel, Len shares an inspirational story while incorporating leadership lessons on building a team to accomplish not only the almost impossible physical feat in completing Race Across America but also winning his division.  Len’s experience underscores the importance of both an individual and a team’s commitment to something bigger than themselves.

Hopecam is a 501c3 charity with the mission of overcoming the social isolation—among the first side effects of treatment—of children with cancer.  They give the children iPads, pay for Internet access if the family is without, then work with theschool to persuade them to establish a regular Skype video chat connection with the child.  All services are provided free to the families and schools thanks to the generosity of donors.  For additional information about Hopecam, or to make a donation, contact:  Executive Director Susan Koehler at 703.364.5606 or susan@hopecam.org.  Visit www.hopecam.org to learn more.