For a little over 10 years, I've been involved with AIDS Foundation Houston, an organization here in town that does everything it can to support people who are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS, including providing housing to nutritional food assistance to those who need it, as well as community outreach and education services to the community at large. They're seriously awesome, and I'm so proud to be affiliated with them.
However, my favourite thing that AFH does, hands down, 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.
I received an email from AFH today, informing me that the fees associated with putting on Camp for these kids has increased, putting a serious strain on AFH's operating budget; as a result, they asked if I could help. I've donated what I could, but with your help, I'd love to do even more -- and in exchange, I've got a seriously awesome giveaway. In fact, let's call it ...
... the summer reading for summer camp giveaway!
Here's how it works:
First, please take some time to watch the 9-minute video below, 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. It's really worth the look, if only for the beautiful imagery Smiley has captured:
Now, once you've watched the video, if you're so moved, please do one (or all!) of the following:
1. If you can, please donate to Camp HOPE. The form on that link has suggested donation amounts, but there's also a space where you can write in your own amount -- and seriously, no amount is too small, because every single dollar counts. It's amazing what AFH is able to do with little money.
2. Please Tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, StumbleUpon or otherwise publicize this post to spread the word. Again, Camp is for kids from all over the United States, so the more people know about it, the better.
Then, once you've done either or both of the above, please leave a comment below letting me know (leaving a comment as a "guest" often works best; also, you don't have to tell me how much -- or if! -- you've donated, but again, anything you can do to spread the word would be greatly appreciated). Then on Friday, (thanks to some really wonderful Texas friends!), I'll pick one winner to win an amazing summer reading gift package, consisting of:
A signed copy of Let's Pretend This Never Happened, the New York Times bestselling, mostly-true memoir by my friend Jenny Lawson (this is the new paperback version, which has an all-new chapter included); and
A signed copy of my book, The Beauty of Different.
With this set of books, you (or whatever lucky person you want to gift one or more of them to) will be set for summer reading for 2013, don't you think?
Thanks in advance, friends, for your help. Let's make sure that Camp HOPE keeps on keeping on.
UPDATE: I had to remove Disqus comments (because Squarespace is being highly difficult), but congratulations to Chibi Jeebs, who said "Unfortunately, I can't afford to donate right now, but I Stumbled, Tweeted, liked on Facebook, Pinned and +1'd on Google!" -- you've won the summer reading pack! Keep an eye out for an email from me asking for your snail mail info.
And thanks to all of you who did what you could to amplify this message. Please continue to spread the word -- Camp Hope is so appreciative of your help.