Gala to benefit kids' summer camp for cancer patients - FOX 10 News |

Gala to benefit kids' summer camp for cancer patients

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Southwest Kids' Cancer Foundation offers camp programs for kids who have had cancer.

One valley teen who was treated at Phoenix Children's Hospital says her camp experience was life changing, and encourages people to attend an upcoming fundraising gala.

17-year-old Hannah Benkel loves the challenge of sports, but when a volleyball tournament left her overheated for four days, she knew something was wrong.

"Finally went into the doctor. He was thinking it was mono and my mom was convinced it was pneumonia and so when we got a chest X-ray, there was a tumor about the size of a grapefruit in between my lungs and my heart," said Benkel.

Benkel was diagnosed with stage 4b Hodgkin's lymphoma and underwent eight months of chemotherapy at PCH.

The two scars on her neck are permanent reminders of her treatment journey.

Thanks to the support of PCH staff, Benkel says she never felt alone during her treatment.

"It takes somebody very special to work with children and it takes somebody even more special to work with children who are in such a hard place that they sometimes can't even help," said Benkel.

Benkel decided to help children just like her and their siblings by volunteering at a day camp.

She was so moved by the experience that she headed to camp herself, attending a week long session at Camp Sunrise in Payson.

"All the teens got together and we sat in a circle and we just all shared stories and it was interesting to hear the similarities and the differences and just hear what everybody had gone through. And we know that we don't understand each other completely, but the one thing we do understand is the feeling," said Benkel.

Camp Sunrise Sidekicks is just one of several programs sponsored by Southwest Kids' Cancer Foundation.

The year-old nonprofit strives to give kids with cancer the same summer experience other kids have: canoeing, horseback riding, even rafting.

"They're wise beyond their years because of their experiences. They have a lot to offer in just their friendship and their kindness and their generosity. These are an amazing group of kids that are treasures to us all," said Southwest Kids' Cancer Foundation President Stephen Ramey.

Benkel plans to return to camp this summer as a counselor in training.

She hopes others will support Southwest Kids' Cancer Foundation by attending its upcoming gala and helping to raise funds for other campers just like her.

"People really have to remember that there's a life for kids after cancer and that it matters just as much as their life during," said Benkel.

Southwest Kids Cancer Foundation Fundraising Gala
Feb. 28 from 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler
Tickets: 100 per person or $150 per couple

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