Lynne Eisenstein and Beth Friedman are obviously sisters. It’s not just their resemblance, but their vibrant personalities and their shared passions for kids and camping. They also finish each other’s sentences, at least when talking about children with cancer and the new Atlanta camp that specializes in providing them a traditional summer day camp experience – for free – along with their siblings.
Eisenstein and Friedman are co-chairing the first AuroraWALKS fundraiser in Atlanta April 13 for the new Aurora Day Camp, which began last year at the Davis Academy.
The sisters are moved to tears talking about how lucky they are that their children are healthy. The Aurora Day Camp provides a similar experience for children with cancer to what they had growing up and what their own kids experience now, they said.
“Think about the parents,” Friedman said. “My life is so easy, when their whole lives revolve around hospitals.”
Often the case with children who have cancer, their siblings take a back seat to the sick child, Eisenstein said. But this camp allows siblings to share the experience. It’s a special bond between siblings at camp, she said. And she should know. Eisenstein is a former assistant director of URJ Camp Coleman. She followed in the footsteps of their mother, director of a camp in New Hampshire, where the siblings worked their way up from campers to senior staff. “It was all we knew every summer. It was a transformative experience.”
That’s why Eisenstein was eager to help when approached by Sami Tanenbaum, director of camp and year-round programs for Aurora Day Camp. Tanenbaum was a former Coleman camper of Eisenstein’s and they also knew each other from Temple Sinai, where Tanenbaum was director of youth and teen programming. Eisenstein, in turn, recruited her sister.
Aurora Day Camp is part of the Sunrise Association, which provides similar programs for children with cancer and their siblings worldwide. AuroraWALKS is the latest of the SunriseWalks campaign.
A month from the April 13 walk at Chastain Park, the event has already signed up more than half of the 250 participants it hoped to attract and raised nearly half of its $75,000 goal, according to Executive Director Gregory Hill. It costs $6,000 to send a child to Aurora Day Camp. Last summer, the camp had 90 campers and it hopes to reach 125 to 150 this year, he said. A generous New York family pledged to match donations made by this past Wednesday, up to $24,000.
“Without the support of Beth and Lynne, this camp doesn’t happen,” Hill said. “This is an opportunity to do something good in the world” to help children have a stress-free opportunity. “We don’t talk about cancer at camp. We treat them like every child regardless of their ability level.” The camp is also very flexible about their needs, including permission to leave camp whenever needed to receive cancer treatment, he said. “We don’t want them to feel like they missed out, to feel left out because of their treatment.”
Registration for the AuroraWALK begins at 8:30 a.m. April 13, with a pre-walk activity at 9:45 a.m. A short opening ceremony takes place before the 10 a.m. walk, which will take three routes ranging from 1 to 2 ½ miles. A celebration and post-walk activities begin at 11 a.m. and include arts and crafts, a DJ, emcee, chalk artists, mascots such as Freddie Falcon, and other family activities.
For more information, to register or donate, www.aurora-walks.org.