Non-Profit Spotlight

Empowering Kids Who Have Cancer - Camp One Step by Children's Oncology Services

A Conversation with Jill Kulbok Carlson & Darryl W. Perkins Jr.

Rahul Razdan Rahul Razdan
April 2019

One of the most rewarding parts of our work at Charity Footprints is getting to work with amazing non-profits, and help raise awareness and funds for various programs. Having run 7 unique virtual race campaigns over the past 18 months, not only has Charity Footprints become an intrinsic part of the Camp One Step story, but we as a team feel invested in their mission & success.

Recently, we interviewed Jill Kulbok Carlson (Director, Team One Step) & Darryl W. Perkins Jr. (Chief Programs Officer) to learn more about them, the non-profit they so passionately support, and ask them a few difficult questions (to which I'm still struggling to find answers to). Below are some highlights of our conversation.

Rahul: Tell us a little bit about yourself (what makes you, you)?

Jill: I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, and moved to Chicago to pursue graduate school. I met my husband 2 months before I was diagnosed with a late stage, aggressive form of cancer. We shaved our heads together - and our dogs'! We now have two young kids - ages 5 and 8 and a very spoiled dog. Our cat is spoiled too, but doesn't seem to feel too grateful about it. :)

Darryl: I was born and raised in the metro Chicago area. I have lived here (in the Chicago area) the majority of my life, with the exception of going away to college. I am the oldest of three brothers. Being the oldest and “example setter”, there was always an impetus to achieve and accomplish.

Rahul: Can you talk a little about your personal motivations in life?

Jill: I see the kids diagnosed with cancer that we serve at Camp One Step, and desperately want to give them the childhood they deserve. I want them to laugh, pull pranks on each other, and forget about their disease for a bit. All that fun stuff gets lost when you have cancer - Camp One Step truly gives it back. I've been with campers who felt that their cancer diagnosis would define them, or be the end of their lives, but when they came to camp, they found a place where they can be a kid again. They meet other campers who become a second family. The Campers rely on each other year-round for support, and count down the days until Camp. Knowing that I contribute to something like that - even in the smallest way - is so motivating!!!

Darryl: I liken my journey in life as to a climber on a wall. You have multiple limbs holding you in place, so that you are secure where you are, and you minimize your risk of falling. However, you should have one arm, reaching up for the next plateau. I have always been grateful for what I have accomplished in life, and humbled by it, but am always reaching for that next level.

Rahul: Who has been the biggest influence in your life? How has that shaped your life?

Jill: That's easy - my mom. She's very kind, compassionate and accepting. Anytime I questioned things - which was often - she'd challenge me to see all sides of the issue and make decisions based on compassion.

Darryl: One of the things I share with the young children that I mentor is, “the difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how you approach it”. Some of the biggest influencers in my life have been my friends and family that I was surrounded by. I was always motivated to accomplish “more”. Achievement is a journey, not a destination.

Rahul: How do you strike a work life balance? How do you find time for your hobbies/for yourself?

Jill: The best way for me to handle stress is to take my dog for a walk. Good way to get steps in too!

Darryl: Work/life balance is an ongoing juggling act. Prior to this role, I was a volunteer with Camp One Step. I was introduced to the organization through some of the medical professionals that I worked with at Children’s Memorial (now Lurie Children’s) Hospital’s Hematology/Oncology Unit. Once involved, my passion and love for the mission of Camp One Step grew and flourished. Point-in-fact, I used the majority of allotted vacation time from the Hospital to volunteer with Camp. That much intertwining only grew, and became challenging to separate when I moved into my current role (initially).

One of my “counterbalances” that I took on to work was riding motorcycles; there is a “calm in the chaos” of riding this dangerous machine and pulse-racing speeds. In the “off-season” (Winter) I took up snowboarding. I traded one adrenaline activity for another.

Rahul: Can you tell us about Camp One Steps history?

Jill & Darryl: Camp One Step began in 1978 with one program, Summer Camp. We now have a total of 11 programs including Summer Camp, Winter Camp, Dude Ranch Program, Utah Ski Program, two Family Camps, Chicago Day Camp, Sibling Camp, Washington D.C. Program, Utah Adventure Program and the Seabees Program. We are proud to have served over 16,500 campers during the last 41 years! We are supported by 400 annual volunteers, including medical professionals, serving children who are in different stages of treatment.

Rahul: With regards to the organization, what are you guys most proud about?

Jill & Darryl: We feel proud and honored to be part of such an amazing cause! Camp One Step has had some major milestones since we have been involved, one of which is the 40th anniversary celebration last year. To be able to see the number of campers that we bring to camp grow from where it was (40 campers at the start of the first Summer Camp), to where we are now (over 270 at last year’s Summer Camp) is something to be marveled.

Rahul: Is there a moment/story that has stuck with you for a while?

Jill & Darryl: There are so many! To witness Camp One Step campers' kindness to each other and complete acceptance of each other despite differences is pretty magical. Plus, seeing over 400 volunteers give their time to help kids, is just amazing. And to know people donate to our organization giving kids a second chance at childhood, is incredible.

Rahul: In tough moments how do you and other staff/volunteers pick yourself up?

Jill & Darryl: We all definitely get tired and feel depleted at times. That's usually when we start reminiscing about campers and good times at camp. That refreshes us pretty quickly! We also use humor a ton and laugh a lot - often at each other and ourselves.

If these two regular sized humans with regular sized bodies but with hearts of the size of a giant have inspired you, please donate to Camp One Step and show your support for Jill, Darryl and most importantly the kids who have cancer! Every 1,000 dollars help 1 kid attend camp for a week.

Ready to leave your footprints?

Talk to the team that has helped 1,000+ organizations such as yours run amazing virtual & hybrid races.