For all of us at SeriousFun Children’s Network, 2022 offered no shortage of inspiration. For me, it came from witnessing the joy on campers’ and staff members’ faces as we finally brought our global family back together for in-person camp programs. It was such a long time coming but so worth the wait!
Looking back at the last 12 months, I want to share just a few of my SeriousFun highlights from 2022 (there are way too many to mention them all!).
Expanding Family Programming
While SeriousFun never went away, it did feel like we made a big comeback this year. Our in-person residential camps—the kids-only summer sessions that most people know us for—were back in action, safely serving kids living with more than 100 different medical conditions. And our family programming was more important than ever as it supported kids, siblings, parents, and caregivers during a continuously challenging time. These programs took on an extra special role at our Partner Programs in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean where new family and caregiver programs were launched to support more families with children living with HIV and cancer.
Living by Our Values
SeriousFun was founded on the tenets of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. They’re at the very core of our mission. So, it was inspiring to see the work that took place throughout the Network to ensure that all campers, families, caregivers, staff, and volunteers could come to camp or work as their authentic selves. In addition to a variety of trainings around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the Network Support Center carried out a DEI audit to improve our own organization and engaged our camps and programs in completing DEI self-assessments to help identify their strengths and areas to grow.
Raising Awareness about Camp
I was able to attend the 2022 International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada, as representatives from SeriousFun Partner Programs were invited by our partner ASHA Foundation to co-host a symposium about the positive health and psychosocial outcomes of camp for children living with HIV and AIDS. Much to our surprise (and delight), a former camper was in attendance. He took the opportunity to share how camp had changed his life—and inspired his present-day work with youth living with HIV, almost a decade later! Camp is truly the gift that keeps on giving!
Coming Together with Friends
At the 20th anniversary celebration of The A&F Challenge, hosted by our friends at Abercrombie & Fitch Co., SeriousFun was one of A&F’s six impact partners and event beneficiaries. I was proud to join a panel of leaders from The Trevor Project, The Steve Fund, GLSEN, The Academy Group, and The Hollister Confidence Project to talk about our individual programs and collective impact. There is something truly special about organizations coming together to build a better world for kids everywhere.
Celebrating and Supporting Impact
We held our first in-person Network event in two years as we celebrated our camps and programs, campers and families, partners and supporters, and honored the incomparable Joanne Woodward at our New York gala. As I watched the campers take the stage along with some of our talented celebrity friends (check out some of the show here!), I kept thinking one thought: no matter what the challenges, we can never stop working towards a world where every child can find the joy, confidence and belonging they need.
Every year, SeriousFun Children’s Network grows stronger as the impact of camp extends to more children. The joy we saw at camp this year reinforced what we’ve always known, and what the pandemic has underscored: supportive camp programs offer all kinds of positive outcomes for kids—not only for that week at camp, but for a lifetime. With everything that has taken place this past year, I have no doubt that the significance of the SeriousFun camp experience in the lives of our campers will only continue to grow.
Thank you for being part of our global community—and for being the reason more kids will find joy, community and belonging in 2023.
Cheers to a new year, together,
Blake Maher, CEO, SeriousFun