Kings fans in Los Angeles aren’t strangers to the fact that McDonald’s is the presenting sponsor of their favorite hockey team. In addition to the fan-favorite ‘McFlurry Minute,’ McDonald’s has branded everything from staff e-mail signatures to the players’ practice jerseys.
But there’s much more to those golden arches than fast food.
During the summer of 2013, a group of Kings executives were invited to visit Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times (known as “Camp”), which is located in Mountain Center. They then decided that Camp would be an excellent allocation of Kings Care Foundation funds. That decision came to fruition on May 2 as the Camp’s Dining Hall/Activity Center -- to which the Kings donated $1 Million Dollars -- celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Founded in 1982 by a group of oncology doctors, nurses, and parents, Camp is a place where children who suffer from cancer have the opportunity to come and recapture their childhood. Camp addresses the emotional and social needs of not only these children, but also their parents and siblings.
“Camp is available to cancer patients under the age of 18 and their siblings that live in Southern California. Summer camp is for patients and siblings nine to 18 years-old while family camp is for patients under nine and their whole family,” explained Sarah Orth, the Camp’s Executive Director.
One of the nation’s largest recreational camping programs for children with cancer, Camp, a program of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California, is medically supervised and cost-free to participants. Serving more than 1,500 campers each year, Camp relies on a volunteer staff of more than 350 dedicated doctors, nurses, psychologists, specially trained counselors and activity specialists to keep the program running.
“McDonalds brought this cause to our attention, and a big group of us went up there two summers ago and we all just literally fell in love with the place,” recalled Jennifer Pope, Senior Director of Community Relations and Kings Care Foundation for the Kings.
“It’s honestly a magical place for these kids – they think they’re alone, they think they don’t have anyone to talk to or anyone to turn to and they get to this camp where it is all kids like themselves,” continued Pope. “During that visit they sat us all individually with groups of kids and the kids told us their stories. We had a really great day, and from that point on we felt we had to do something.”
Each camp session welcomes 130-140 campers, and the new 12,000 square-foot Dining Hall/Activity Center will help increase Camp’s capacity by 35 percent.
“They were looking to rebuild the dining hall for the kids and they were looking for us to direct some of our funds to the right initiative, and that’s what we wanted as well,” said Kelly Cheeseman, Chief Operating Officer of the Kings and AEG Sports.
“They had us come meet with them at the camp and showed us their current dining hall. It was maybe 1,000 square feet and there were hundreds of kids just jammed in there for lunches, no air conditioning,” remembered Cheeseman. “We also saw the joy in their hearts and the way they were celebrating their experience they were having at the camp throughout the week and the way they were able to retreat from what’s going on in their life. It really impacted us in a big way.
“To have the Kings brand attached to that and to give them a new experience with air conditioning, in a big, modernized dining hall, it was a perfect fit for us.”
During that recent trip, approximately 300 guests were on hand to witness the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony – 150 campers and volunteers, and an additional 150 donors and guests. Those in attendance were treated to Bailey, the Kings mascot, cutting the ribbon with some of the campers; speeches from some of the participating families; a family barbeque; and even the Kings Chariot Staff was on hand to play hockey with those interested. Kings analysts Jim Fox and Daryl Evans were among those present.
“For many of our campers, their physical limitations prohibit them from attending regular camp programs. It is an added bonus to get some special attention from our region’s sports heroes,” said Orth, who has been with the Camp since 2012. “I also think it’s a cross-promotional ‘win-win.’ The LA Kings demonstrate their commitment to the community by aligning themselves with a charity such as ours, and we benefit from the added PR and exposure.”
The ‘win-win’ is also felt on a personal level by those like Pope and Cheeseman who both have young children.
“You realize how lucky you are to have a healthy child and it definitely impacts you in a big way,” says Cheeseman, who has a six month-old daughter. You want to make sure that any parent that’s dealing with [cancer] has that opportunity to have exactly what you want to happen with your child.”
Those interested in volunteering at Camp must be 19 years-old to apply, and participate in a thorough interview and screening process. More information can be found at rmhcsc.org/camp.
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