Imagine having the time and the means to pursue a dream. What would you do? What would you learn? Thanks to Edelman, my dream became a reality last summer, and a mere seven days away from my desk afforded me a world of insight and newfound appreciation for the work we do at Edelman and the importance of making time to help others.
My adventure began when an email calling for Edelman Escape submissions from Laura Smith, U.S. human resources managing director, popped into my inbox, and I jumped at the chance to pursue an experience missing from my day-to-day life as a working professional. Edelman Escape gives Edelman employees the opportunity to apply for a paid mini-sabbatical for one week to realize a dream and provides $1,000 to help make it financially viable.
Inspired by my grandparents’ struggle with cancer and my longstanding love of working with children, the call for applications spurred me to search for volunteer opportunities at childhood cancer camps across the country. As an Edelman Escape recipient, I was able to accept an offer to assist the longtime arts and crafts director at a camp in Waialua, Hawaii, called Camp Ānuenue (the word for “rainbow” in Hawaiian).
The children who attend the camp each year have faced challenges and loss few can relate to, and yet are the bravest and most generous children I have ever met. Camp is a fun-filled week of respite for children and families who must deal with the physical and emotional tolls of cancer. With activities including a bonfire with Hawaiian Fire Dancers, a kid-friendly casino night and a carnival night replete with shaved ice, cotton candy and inflatable games, there is little room for the campers to think of anything but the fun of the present moment.
All year round, the camp directors expend an enormous amount of energy planning the week’s logistics and activities, all made possible by a multitude of dedicated volunteers who make the commitment year in and year out to be a part of the magic and community that is Camp Ānuenue. The experience was so transformative that I made it my mission to return to camp again this year, which was the perfect sequel to last year’s Escape.
Because Edelman is a company that cares about its people and the role we play in the world around us, I now know firsthand why campers and staff look forward to Camp Ānuenue all year long and how lucky I am to have been part of it two years in a row. Through this experience, I gained a unique perspective on living life to the fullest, as well as the lasting power of a week filled with smiles, laughter and friendship – without a trace of fear.