PLATINUM2024

SPECIAL LOVE, INC.

Unity, Trust, Respite

aka Children's Cancer Camps   |   Winchester, VA   |  http://www.specialove.org

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Mission

Special Love provides a strong, nurturing environment for children with cancer and their families; through its free camps and get-away weekends, emergency financial assistance, personal development programming for young adult cancer survivors and educational scholarships for young adults who want to move on from cancer and on with their lives. Since its inception in 1983, nearly 1,000 children and families each year benefit from Special Love’s support, coming from up and down the east coast, as well as areas all across the country through its unique partnership with the National Institutes of Health.

Notes from the nonprofit

We are celebrated our 40th Anniversary in 2023

Ruling year info

1983

Executive Director

Jan Bresch

Main address

158 Front Royal Pike Suite 311

Winchester, VA 22602 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

54-1218130

NTEE code info

Recreational and Sporting Camps (Day, Overnight, etc.) (N20)

Children's and Youth Services (P30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2022, 2021 and 2020.
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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Special Love provides programs for pediatric cancer patients and survivors, as well as their siblings and parents, in the form of camps, adventure programs, financial relief, and educational scholarships. The fight against cancer is not just about treating the body. A family can be engulfed by a myriad of other social challenges that drain on the family unit. Childhood cancer is not one disease there are more than 12 major types and over 100 subtypes, and while the patient is dealing with the disease and treatments ravaging the body, family members are affected by large amounts of stress, environmental shifts, and depression. On average, pediatric hospitalizations for cancer cost almost five times as much as hospitalizations for other pediatric conditions. Beyond the physical and emotional stress, the family has also to overcome the cost of treatment.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Camp Fantastic

Camp Fantastic is a one-week adventure welcoming children with cancer and those in recovery held in August in the Shenandoah Valley. Campers can learn new skills, relax at the pool, and join other children with cancer for fun activities and informal discussions. The friendships forged at camp last a lifetime, along with the memories that honor the battles forged and the bright futures in front of these young survivors. A full complement of medical staff makes it possible for children in nearly any stage of cancer treatment to receive their treatments while at camp so they don't miss a moment of fun. 2023 was a momentous year as more than 45 campers returned to a week-long in-person camp following a four-year hiatus. Virtual Camp Fantastic was the dose of camp that the young cancer patients needed during the pandemic years. It was very important to wait those four years until all the correct protocols were in place to ensure the safety of all campers, volunteers, and staff.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Families

BRASS Camp gives the BRothers And SiSters of children with cancer a chance to meet other cancer siblings and share the cancer experience in a setting that allows for plenty of fun and relaxation. The campsite is set on the banks of Breton Bay for numerous water activities, including fishing, crabbing, canoeing, and unforgettable sunsets. BRASS meets twice annually, for a weekend in March and a week in July. Much of the staff at BRASS are volunteers who are also cancer siblings themselves, so they can empathize with what the campers are going through. Although optional, informal "chat rooms" allow campers to discuss their fears and questions regarding cancer. The emphasis at BRASS is on fun!

Population(s) Served
Children and youth

Family weekend camps are open to families with cancer patients aged 0-17. Programming for Family Weekends is based on the camp model used at Camp Fantastic and BRASS Camp, with outdoor and indoor activities and optional parent discussions. Family Weekends serves up to 250 people per weekend, with a weekend or weekday offered nine months out of the year. The locations of the events are spread across Northern and Southern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, to reach as many individuals as possible. Family events offer recreation, camp classes, and the chance to meet other families going through the cancer experience. Each event can be the step away from cancer the family needs to reconnect and heal their hearts.

Population(s) Served
Families
Children and youth

The fund provides financial aid to current and eligible camp families in the form of emergency grants that cover utilities, car repair, mortgages, rent, and other non-medical essential services to allow families to focus on their child's fight against cancer. As the world began to change following the COVID pandemic, Special Love decided to include funeral expenses for the services of children who passed from cancer and/or long-term complications.
In 2020, we saw an increase in requests, and we fulfilled as many requests by June as we typically fulfill in a whole year. As the country continues to rebound, we are committed to making all requests that fit our requirements happen.

Population(s) Served

The Scholarship Fund provides educational grants for post-secondary education to current and past Special Love program participants. Awards ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 help defer the cost of school/training and show awardees that Special Love is invested in their futures.
In 2021 we also had out first Gary and Dianne DeOms HOPE Scholarship recipients. This scholarship fund is specifically for the siblings of cancer patients.

Population(s) Served
Young adults

The Virtual Programs were born out of the 2020 pandemic and lockdown protocols. The center of Special Loves programs is about coming together to share in laughter, activities, and camp songs. The only space available during lockdown was through video calling. Special Love uses programs like Zoom to bring patients, siblings, parents, and volunteers together while they remain safe at home. As an organization that works with immunocompromised children, it was essential to remain good stewards of public health and avoid gatherings. The list of virtual activities is long and continues to grow. Those activities include crafts, baking, science experiments, and even poetry writing. The silver lining of a virtual program is that children and families can join from anywhere in the world.

Population(s) Served
Children and youth
Families
Children and youth
Families

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Children Oncology Camping Association 2022

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of participants engaged in programs

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, Children and youth, Caregivers

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

2023, we returned to a full in-person camp schedule while also offering virtual activities throughout the year.

Number of volunteers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

2023, we returned to a full in-person camp schedule while also offering virtual activities throughout the year.

Hours of volunteer service

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Other - describing something else

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

2023, we returned to a full in-person camp schedule while also offering virtual activities throughout the year.

Number of camps offered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults, Children and youth, Caregivers

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Number of Facebook followers

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Type of Metric

Input - describing resources we use

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Our Special Love community can remain connected as well as supporters learn about upcoming events and programs. Great outreach tool for both. This includes our Instagram followers as well

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Special Love provides a variety of programs for pediatric cancer patients and survivors, as well as their siblings and parents, in the form of camps, adventure programs, financial relief, and educational scholarships. Our founder said it best: When a child gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer. The programs cater to each family member's needs in different ways. A child going through treatment wants the chance to do what all kids are doing and connect with fellow patients to share stories, hugs, and, most importantly, laughs. Our sibling camp in July, BRASS Camp (BRothers and SiSters), and one weekend are dedicated to building relationships with other siblings, sharing experiences, and offering each other support, all while allowing them to take center stage. Parents and caregivers also need incredible support as they navigate changes to routine, family dynamics, and their own well-being.

During the pandemic, it was about curbing the fear and isolation caused by not only having a child with cancer but now a worldwide virus. Our programs are based on camps and togetherness, so we had to get to work on finding a way to reach families and bring them together. Just days after the March 2020 shutdown, we added VOICE (Virtual Online In-home Camp Experience) to reach our families. We have hosted more than 200 hours of virtual programs, including our two-week-long camps in 2020. We will also host all virtual programs in summer 2021. We welcome the challenge but also the opportunity to bring programming to children in hospitals and from all over the country.

We continue to push forward with the overarching goal of reaching as many families with a child battling cancer as possible. During the course of 2024, we will be working on a Strategic Plan to guide the organization into the next 40 years of service, or hopefully when childhood cancer is no longer.

Cancer is a long journey, and we are here for all of it.

The heart of the organization is camp programming. Camps or adventure programs can be weeklong, a weekend, or a day trip that bring together cancer patients, siblings, caregivers or parents, friends, and young adult cancer survivors. Through regular evaluations of our programs and surveys of our current participants, we maintain the highest-quality programs possible. We also want to reach as many families affected by cancer within our service area.

By strengthening our ambassador group (comprised of veteran families and current social work and child life staff), we have created brand recognition within the hospitals where current and former campers have received cancer treatment. This includes about 15 medical facilities, with that number growing. Our activities, or "Pop-up Camps," provide a break from regular hospital life with a craft or game while they learn about our programs.

The fight against cancer is not just about treating the body. A family can be engulfed by a myriad of other social challenges that drain on the family unit. One of the most common is a loss of financial stability. Whether it is money for long hospital stays, transportation, or loss of income due to a caregiver missing work, it adds up to families making tough choices about what they can do. Special Love offers financial relief to keep a family afloat by providing help in paying for rent, utilities, gas, and/or food.

All young adults are faced with a big question following the completion of secondary education, what is next? Special Love offers post-secondary scholarships to empower young cancer survivors and propel them into a new reality as they pursue their vision to ease this big decision of what's next.

Special Love continues to be one camp in an exceptional group of camps providing programming specifically to children with cancer. Special Love stands out among that group because we cater programs to each member of the family as they transition into young adulthood. Our founder said it best, "when the child gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer." We continue to answer that need to support the whole family with more than 14 programs a year (weeklong camps, weekends, and day trips).

Our week-long Camp Fantastic, held during the third week of August, benefits from the medical services and expertise of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which sends more than two dozen medical staff per day to see to the needs of our 100+ campers. Thanks to their partnership and that of volunteers from a half dozen other local treatment centers, we can accommodate children in nearly any stage of treatment, including receiving chemotherapy while at camp. Thanks to our partnership with the NCI, we were able to host a child in 2016 who was considered terminal. It not only provided her with a week of camp but also helped boost her spirits to the point that she rallied and beat her prognosis by more than two years.
.

In 2024, Special Love will complete a Strategic Plan exercise under the guidance of a consulting firm. The mission of Special Love has not changed, but the world of cancer and how families interact has changed. The overall goal remains the same: to reach as many constituents as possible but also provide the best programs to match the community of support we strive to provide.

Program evaluations were retooled and administered in recent years, and they showed that program enhancements (adding special guests and, in some cases, branded giveaways) increased the "fun factor" of our programs.

Having identified hospital outreach as one of our key needs/strategies, we began doing "pop-up camps" in 2015-2016 and continue adding more yearly. Veteran camp parents and volunteers help us run outpatient clinics and hospital activities to give patients and families a "taste" of camp. The feedback from our visits continues to be very positive.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We engage the people who provide feedback in looking for ways we can improve in response, We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, We don’t have the right technology to collect and aggregate feedback efficiently, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time

Financials

SPECIAL LOVE, INC.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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lock

Connect with nonprofit leaders

Subscribe

Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

SPECIAL LOVE, INC.

Board of directors
as of 02/06/2024
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Edwin White

McGriff Insurance

Term: 2022 - 2024

Shari Fisher

No Affiliation

Jay Robinson

Damuth TRANE

Maria Kenny

No Affiliation

MP Brock Zimmerman

Get-To-Market Health

Brian Graney

Brown Advisory Group

Melissa Steele

E&G Group

Chuck Bell

NBC4 Washington DC

Nicole Conti

Lockheed Martin

Jack Hanson

No Affiliation

Brendan Meehan

Urban Alliance

Taylor Miles

Jordan Coyne LLP

Lisa Schmidt

REMAX

John Taylor

No Affiliation

Bill Tomoff

Invenio Advisors

Lee Weiner

Executive Counsel

Jerry Ross

Specialized Engineering

Brian Hetherington

Clark Construction

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/5/2024

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

We do not display disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff.

Equity strategies

Last updated: 02/05/2024

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

Data
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.