camp hope

So guys, I need your help.

For the past 10 years or so, I've been involved with a local organization here in Houston, called AIDS Foundation Houston.  This remarkable not-for-profit organization has been around since 1982, the first Texas organization providing HIV prevention education and services to those who have been infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.  The services they provide are incredible: from housing and food for the indigent to education programs for teens and those who are imprisoned, to the huge annual Houston AIDSWalk which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars benefiting local AIDS service organizations, they're really a force to be reckoned with in the fight to make HIV/AIDS history.

One of my favourite services that they provide, however, is Camp HOPE:  the first summer camp of its kind, specifically for kids between the ages of 7 and 15 with HIV/AIDS.  Most of the 150 kids who come from all over the United States to Camp each year are from families whose annual income is less than US$10,000; needless to say, this is one of the only opportunities (if not the only opportunity) these kids have to spend 7 carefree days swimming and climbing and playing and doing all the kinds of things kids love to do at camp -- but with the added benefit of not feeling like they have to hide who they are, or worse, deal with the stigma of having this disease.  Furthermore, Camp is safe:  in addition to the amazing camp counselors (some of them former Camp HOPE campers), there are doctors and psychiatrists and social workers who donate their time, and medical supplies and facilities actually on site, should any emergencies or medical needs arise.

Yesterday, I received a letter from AFH, indicating that Camp HOPE is in imminent danger of not having enough in its budget to make Camp HOPE 2012 a reality this year -- a prospect that is truly horrifying.  And so, I'm trying to do what I can to help them reach their goals by June 1st, by spreading the word.

And it's for this reason I'm rather boldly asking you for help as well.

If you could, please take some time to watch the 9-minute video you see above, where you'll meet some of the amazing people behind Camp Hope  (it's truly a beautiful video, compiled by stunningly talented photojournalist Smiley Pool).  Then, if you're so moved, please consider helping by doing the following:

•  donating whatever you can to help Camp Hope raise the $32,000 it needs by June 1st; and/or
•  facebooking, tweeting, emailing or even stumbleupon-ing this post far and wide, to help spread the word.

Once you've done either or both of those things, please leave a comment below saying whatever you'd like (but you don't have to tell me what you did -- I trust you), and I'll pick 5 commenters at random to win 5 signed copies of The Beauty of Different.

Because seriously, if there's one organization that understands how beautiful Different can be, it's this organization.

Thanks, friends.  I'll announce the winner this Love Thursday.

* * * * * * *

Update:  Thank you guys SO MUCH -- so far $6000 has been donated to Camp Hope through your efforts -- I'm so thrilled.  So thrilled.  

As promised, the following are the winners of the signed copies of The Beauty of Different:

Melanie Dorsey, who said, "the video is gorgeous and the cause is one of such importance. Myfavorite line in the video is "if the president invited me to do an interview and win 5 million dollars or go to camp... i would choose camp." The value of a dollar can only make one so happy, but the strength of the human spirit and the ability to share yours with those in need is immeasurable."

Jennifer Rene Owens, who said, "Kellande's smile s tole my heart fromthe beginning. what a wonderful place for them to find retreat. will spread the word! :0)"

Andrea, who said, "Thank you for putting out the call for support. I just made a donation. What an incredible gift to be able to help children living with this disease. I'll re-tweet & post & encourage others to give. I hope many others will do the same!"

Wendy, who said, "I don't need to watch the video (but I will when I have time). You endorse them, that still shot is beautiful, and Charity Navigator gives them four stars for their finances ... that's all I need to know. I donated and I'd spread the word if I had anywhere to spread it. Sometimes I think having a Facebook account wouldn't be evil incarnate. But most of the time I think it would be. :)"

and Adam Woodrum, who said, "Donated and shared. Best of luck to them, as a food allergy mom I know how much it means to kids to feel like they belong and be around other children like themselves. - @homawoodrum"

Congratulations to all!  Please email me at karen@chookooloonks.com with your snail mail address, and I'll get your signed books to you as soon as possible.

And again, thank you.