Our Proud History
Planning for Camp UKANDU began in 1985 when a small group of Candlelighters parents decided, despite their children’s illness, they wanted them to be able to go to camp like every other kid. Thanks to an initial grant by the Fred Meyer Charitable Trust, 48 campers brought to life the first Camp UKANDU on August 10, 1986 at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp. In 1988, many of UKANDU’s special traditions began, including the dance, sleeping in teepees, and Memory Circle – where we honor those campers who have passed. That year, the all-volunteer staff took 90 campers from Mt. Hood to Camp Yamhill, and then in 1989, the UKANDU volunteer board of directors began a long-standing relationship with the American Cancer Society. Just one year later, in 1990, the number of campers attending Camp UKANDU increased to 132.
In 1996, our 10th year was marked by another move...
and Camp UKANDU was held at Camp Magruder, on the Oregon coast near Tillamook. The Counselor in Training (CIT) program also began this year, to provide an avenue of leadership development for former campers between the ages of 19 and 21. The success of this program (now known as LIT – Leaders in Training) is largely responsible for an average of 25% of our 100+ volunteers each year, and is made up of former campers. This incredible experience and perspective provides our staff tremendous insight into what our population of campers is going through and, of equal importance, provides our campers with inspirational role models.
In 2002, the board and volunteer staff worked extremely hard to earn accreditation by the American Camping Association, a notable distinction we maintain to this day.
In the fall of 2009 we implemented our first Teen Retreat at YMCA Camp Collins. Based in part on the success of the experience at that first retreat, we moved our Camp in the summer of 2009 to that location near Oxbow Park and camp has been there every summer since. Along with this new location, camp received new programming, including a high ropes challenge course, archery, horseback riding, and rock climbing on a 70 ft. tower, along with our traditional programs, such as art, weaving, science, games and more.
In 2013, the American Cancer Society altered their mission and redirected their resources to focus exclusively on developing a cure for cancer. While we at UKANDU applaud this effort and hope they are successful, this change meant Camp UKANDU would be forced to shut down, or rush to establish our own infrastructure. Many volunteers and community members were determined to ensure children and families facing the rigors of childhood cancer would be able to enjoy a place where outrageous fun would continue into the future and we established Camp UKANDU as an independent 501(c)(3) organization.
2016 marked our 30th anniversary and we took another big step by hiring our first Executive Director. Working with an expanding board of directors, over the next four years, the staff of UKANDU had grown from one individual to three full-time employees, including another first – a full-time Program Director. Adding expertise and resources allowed us to add four new programs to our list of offerings: Camp UKANDU; an expanded UKANDU Teen Retreat; UKANDU Family Camp and; The UKANDU Family Reunion. Offering programs beyond Camp UKANDU led to a formal name change for the organization in 2018 to UKANDU.
As COVID-19 wrought havoc and changed the world around us in 2020, we made the only responsible decision and for the first time in 35 years, we did not hold Camp UKANDU. Heartbroken, but undeterred, we remained committed to our mission. In just nine short weeks, the staff conceived, designed and implemented our fifth program, UKANDU Virtual Camp, with an entire week of familiar and not-so-familiar camp activities for our families. While two-dimensional programming is not the same as meeting in person, we showed that community and connection is still possible for our UKANDU family – and perhaps more important than ever. Live morning ‘newscasts’; live nightly campfires and singalongs; and dance parties were accompanied by a full week of arts and crafts; outdoor adventure; nutritional cooking instruction; and most importantly, opportunities for members of this unique community to connect once again as a group.
Despite the challenges of 2020, we found new ways to serve families impacted by childhood and adolescent cancer. The addition of virtual programming to our lineup allowed us to serve families across the country. Along with our friends from the Pacific Northwest, we were joined by families from Virginia, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and California. As virtual programming becomes a permanent offering, we look forward to serving more families across the country – and maybe even beyond!
As 2020 came to an end, UKANDU was thrilled to learn we had been awarded a very prestigious grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. This amazing honor helps to fund the hiring of our first Development Director. With the addition of a highly-skilled professional, UKANDU is poised to emerge from the challenges of 2020 stronger than ever and serving even more families into the future.
We are so proud that we have been providing hope and joy to this amazing group of deserving children and their families. And with your help, we will continue to do so for years to come.
UKANDU is a volunteer-driven organization. More than 100 adults give of their time and talents every summer to create a week of outrageous fun for the children and families of UKANDU.
Board of Directors
Our board is comprised of impassioned leaders with diverse skills and experiences committed to the mission of providing hope, joy, and connection to the families of UKANDU.
Committee volunteers provide vital leadership and work in conjunction with the board and staff to further UKANDU's mission and reach in the community.
Communications Committee Chair