“I’m proud to be part of an organization that makes such magic happen.”
Jasmin Joya is a family relations and recruitment coordinator at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, also known as Camp. A recent hire, Jasmin’s relationship with Camp started back to 2007 when she first attended Camp as a camper.
In 2004 at age 10, Jasmin was diagnosed with Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ACL). She says she didn’t really understand what was happening, but knew she was going to be sick for a long time. Jasmin underwent treatment for two years. She was hospitalization for a four month period during which time she lost the ability to walk. More than anything, she wanted to go back to school. So, she pushed herself, climbing stairs daily until she could walk again and until she gained approval from her doctor to go back to class.
When Jasmin returned to school she was welcomed by most of her classmates, but bullied by others, mostly about losing her hair. One even pulled her wig off to expose her head. This treatment caused her to lose confidence and become increasingly shy.
Even back at school, her doctor appointments continued. During one office visit she noticed a flier about Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times. While her mom encouraged her to attend she refused, being shy and knowing it meant interacting with others. The following year, she saw the flier again during another appointment. This time her mother insisted she go.
She was initially hesitant about attending Camp and spending an entire week in an unfamiliar environment, but the warm greeting she received and the realization that she was not different from other campers, made all the difference in the world. She was hooked! Jasmin attended Camp annually through her senior year in high school when she aged-out. Following her final summer as a camper, Jasmin resolved to go back as a Camp counselor. Unfortunately, she was too young, so instead, she volunteered with Camp on the Walk for Kids and the Halloween Carnival.
Jasmin attended the University of California, Riverside, and was able to secure two internships with Camp working with the family recruitment coordinator. As an intern she went to hospitals to talk to children and parents about going to camp and the camp experience, and heard about their first experiences afterward. Finally, in August 2015, she fulfilled her dream during Camp’s last session and worked as a counselor. She says she feels blessed to have been able to share her own story with children battling the same disease both at Camp and through the internships.
After graduating, Jasmin was hired full-time as Camp’s family relations and recruitment coordinator. Every day Jasmin works to connect Camp and the support it provides with kids and families who are in the exact situation she once experienced. She tells prospective campers who may be shy like she was about her story. She tells them that there are other shy campers as well as incredible counselors. She shares how there is no pressure at Camp, only support and encouragement. As talks she sees their eyes light up and knows they are thinking, “may be this would be fun.”
For Jasmin, working at Camp has literally been a dream come true. When reflecting her work she remembers a Camp counselor who once told her, “If you truly love something, just go out there and do it.” She hopes to do just that with Camp, for many years to come.
We are delighted to share that Jasmin celebrated 10 years of being cancer-free in January 2016. We are proud to know Jasmin and honored to support her work by providing camperships so more children can experience the joy and discover self-confidence like she did as a camper.
~Michael and Frida Donner