Click here to listen to the Norton’s Nest podcast, featuring our Founder, Sidney!
Recently, the Founder and President of CCChampions, Sidney Kushner, sat down with Tim Norton of Norton’s Nest podcasts. As the discussion progressed, listeners were given a glimpse into the making of CCChampions as a non-profit organization. Kushner began the story by describing his experience at a camp located a few hours outside of Toronto, Ontario. But the camp was not simply a summer camp for youngsters; each camper had been diagnosed with some form of cancer but simply wanted a normal summer camp experience.
“I was a counselor for boys ages six to ten who were just inspirational. They just have an amazing attitude,” explains Kushner.
The story continues with the mention of one particular camper who struck a chord with Kushner because of the child’s extreme passion for baseball. The boy’s name is Andy, and when Andy discovered Sidney is a baseball fan, the two became inseparable.
In retelling their initial meeting, Kushner said, “[Andy’s] eyes got big when he found out I loved baseball. From then on, he followed me all around camp.” Kushner continued, “Everyone seems to know someone who has been diagnosed. For me, it was a friend in high school with a rare form of back cancer.”
With all of this in mind, Kushner had the motivation to make a change, leading to his creation of CCChampions.
“CCChampions provide[s] unique support for children with cancer. […] If that’s not important, I don’t know what is,” explains Kushner.
Norton then takes over the microphone by explaining why he wished to interview Kushner and inform his viewers of the work CCChampions does. Specifically, Norton discusses how impressed he was with the fact that Kushner began CCChampions not to pack his resume but to take the extra step and go above and beyond the actions of a typical high school student. Norton continues by explaining so many students wish to make their resumes standout in order to accepted into the Ivy League of their dreams, but Kushner showed no indication of personal gain but, instead, demonstrates a real reason: the desire to help kids like Andy.
“[The] most unfair thing in the world is for children to be dealing with cancer,’ states Norton.
In continuation, Norton provides a quote by Charles Barkley, the famous NBA star and member of the US Olympic Dream Team, in which Barkley asserts that he as an athlete is not a role model for kids. But, Norton strongly disagrees with this sentiment. In Norton’s opinion, athletes are role models by default, which is why the relationship between athletes and children is so important.
In complete agreement, Kushner explains why he wanted CCChampions to pair diagnosed children with professional athletes. In describing what makes CCChampions such a unique non-profit, Kushner explains there seems to be a lack of long-term support for children battling cancer. In addition, long-term survival rate has been increasing because of more harsh treatments, which cause kids to be away from their home and their friends and any sense of social normalcy. Enter the professional athlete. Every athlete, throughout their career, has been told they are not good enough at one point or another. In spite of adversity, each one has faced the struggle to the best of their ability. Kushner explicates that experiencing such a struggle means a lot to the kids involved with CCChampions.
But a network involving diagnosed children and professional athletes is obviously difficult to establish, which Norton notes. Wondering how such a community was formed, Norton asks how Kushner took that first step to reach out to professional athletes.
In response, Kushner explains a moment of sheer coincidence when discussing his desire to create CCChampions with is father on an airplane flight, he happens to be sitting across from former Pittsburgh Penguin Mark Recchi. After a brief conversation, Kushner opened his first door towards communication with a network that now consists of 6,000 professional athletes across the nation.
Concluding the discussion, Norton asks Kushner about one more aspect of CCChampions which Norton deems revolutionary: the induction ceremony. Norton is referring to the fact that every child who is a member of the CCChampions team is awarded a personal jersey, a personalized scrapbook, and a Star of Courage, not to mention a friendship with a professional athlete.
With his final remarks, Kushner explains CCChampions works to build a community amongst its members and rally the local community: “[It’s] important to give back, and I hope I am.”
To listen to Sidney’s interview with Tim Norton, follow this link to the podcast: http://nortonsnest.com/an-idealistic-college-student-brings-an-inspired-idea-to-life/
For more information concerning Norton’s Nest, visit nortonsnest.com or follow Norton’s Nest on iTunes.
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“Are you a baseball fan?” asks Jim Rooker as he sits down next to his new buddy, Brett.
Brett excitedly shakes his head yes, still in astonishment that a Pittsburgh Pirate is sitting at his kitchen table. Although his smile looks as if it cannot spread any further, Brett manages to grin even more as Rooker hands him his very own Pirates jersey. But the jersey is not just an ordinary piece of Pirates paraphernalia. Not only does it have Rooker’s number 19 on it, but it also has Brett’s last name on the back: Brett is officially a member of the Pirates family.
Rooker then describes his time spent with the Pirates. But as he reminisces, he begins digging in a plastic bag for something. “There was a guy on our team—Willie Stargell,” explains Rooker as he hands the young boy a coveted Stargell star and a vintage Pirates hat. And, as a finishing touch, Rooker begins curiously pulling at his finger. Eventually removing his World Series ring, he places it on Brett’s hand. Immediately Brett’s eyes are glued to the piece of jewelry as he traces its ridges with his fingers, memorizing every detail of the coveted piece.
After asking for a picture with him and his new friend, Rooker’s thoughts are carried to a story explaining the beginning of his baseball career. The Pirate states, as a child, he played baseball with his best friend until he was drafted. Although not the greatest player, Rooker explains he tried his best and never gave up on making his dreams come true. To relate the struggles he faced on the road of champion status to the young boy sitting next to him, Rooker gracefully explains, “I had to beat the odds.” He continues, “and that’s what I want you to do,” referring to the challenges Brett has faced as a child battling cancer. Rooker then goes on to say that “people have bad things happen to them. You just have to get through them. Fight. Fight. Fight.”
The conversation takes a more serious turn as Brett’s mother begins discussing the journey Brett experienced as a child diagnosed with cancer. Almost bringing Rooker to tears, Brett’s mom explains her son learned one very important thing from chemotherapy: courage. She states that having such an experience “doesn’t mean you’re not afraid, but you face it, and you do it.” When asked, Brett whole-heartedly agrees with his mom, understandable by the drastic change in his expression. Such a discussion causes the realization that Brett and his family are amazingly strong individuals. Listening to this part of the conversation take place, one can see the overwhelming maturity and strength Brett possesses with wisdom well beyond his years.
Moved by what he has just heard, the retired Pirate makes one more guarantee. As an author of children’s books, Rooker begins composing a new story on the spot. The title of this new piece is Sweat with Brett with the first few sentences already formulated. With this, Rooker realizes he must begin his long drive home. As he is about to walk out the door, the former Pirate envelops Brett in a huge bear hug. More apparent at that moment than ever before, a friendship was born.
I want to begin by introducing you to my friend Andy, an 11‐year old boy who could be the most die‐hard baseball fan on Earth. Andy and I met at a camp for kids with cancer—and we instantly became friends. As soon as he heard about my similar love for baseball, his eyes lit up. Nothing excites Andy more than talking about his favorite players—to him, they are the ultimate role models. They inspire him to never give up.
Watching Andy talk about his favorite athletes—and what it was like to meet them at camp in the past—exemplifies the truly powerful impact that professional athletes can have on these kids. At CCChampions, we maximize that positive inspiration through unique 1-to-1 long-term CCC Friendships, complemented by a wealth of team-building community programs.
Right now, Andy is just one of 353,000 children in the United States fighting cancer. Many of these kids—upon being diagnosed—must endure months of treatment, social isolation, and loneliness. The effects of being diagnosed with cancer as a child are not just confined to the hospital—they stretch across one’s childhood. Many other organizations focus on research, the child’s medical health, or granting a one-time dream. CCChampions is the only organization that promotes positive social health over a long-term period of time for these children. By connecting local, kind‐hearted athletes with kids just like Andy, CCChampions creates unique, long‐term friendships during six months of the cancer journey. The impact of these friendships extends well beyond those of a simple hospital visit or economic aid—it lasts a lifetime.
Currently, CCChampions is working with local professional athletes, hospitals, and families across the United States. In 2011, we completed our pilot program with the Pittsburgh Pirates Alumni Association and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. In 2012, we launched our latest chapter in Providence, RI, and we’re quickly expanding throughout the New England region. With our kids and athletes, this first chapter has been more successful than we could have ever imagined. Between the connections that develop in an instant, and the smiles that we see on the kids’ faces, nothing excites us more than the opportunity to share CCChampions with as many children as possible.
Through our relationships with the local sports teams and various hospitals around the country, connections have already been made for the development of new chapters across the nation. The CCChampions team consists of pediatric oncologists, professional athletes, semi-professional athletes, child life specialists, child psychologists, local community members, and families with children who have cancer—and continues to grow with each new chapter. At CCChampions, we believe that every child battling cancer is a true champion—and they should be treated as just that.
Together, we truly can “Connect Children with Champions.”