For more than 30 years, Danny Cavett, a chaplain at the OU Medical Center, quietly went about his goal of providing special camps for children fighting life-threatening and chronic illnesses — all in the name of helping them escape the routines of their treatment.
Then the global recession hit. To finance those camps, Cavett’s foundation started public fundraising efforts.
On Friday, the nonprofit will hold its annual Cavett Kids Foundation’s Got Talent fundraising dinner, which has grown from 300 attendees three years ago to more than 550 this year.
That increase prompted the foundation to move the event to a bigger venue, as well as set its sights on a higher goal: $100,000.
“It has grown in leaps and bounds,” said Jenny Rodgers, who was once a camper just like the 5,000 to 7,000 children helped by the group each year. Now, she is the foundation’s director.
Cavett came up with the idea in 1977 when he designed Kamp Kidney. The program grew from there to include Camp Cavett at Lake Texoma; Camp Wildfire at the Central Christian Camp and Conference Center in Guthrie; Heart Camp in the mountains of northern New Mexico; Ski Camp in Winter Park, Colo.; and Leadership Camp in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
Each focuses on different illnesses suffered by children between ages 10 and 18. All aim to teach children about Cavett Kids’ three Cs: character, coping and connection.
“He understands what the kids are fighting,” said Rodgers, who had cancer as a child. She pointed out that Cavett himself is a cancer survivor; in 1993, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Follicular lymphoma.
“That’s why we’re locked in for life,” she said. “It’s not fun to have cancer.”
The focus of the camps is to let children with illnesses know they are not alone and to teach them how to share their challenges.
“We’ve gone from begging kids to perform to two solid nights of talent at a camp,” Rodgers said.
Kids demonstrate all sorts of talents.
One child even made a chicken Caesar salad onstage.
Some of those children will share their stories with those who attend Friday’s banquet.
“It’s a great event,” added Rodgers.
“We are such a family.”