The Chiera Family Foundation, a Coconut Creek-based charity that helps children battling cancer, raised more than $250,000 at its 22nd annual fundraising event.
More than 400 guests attended the “New York State of Mind”-themed dinner at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel Casino in Hollywood, and 130 took part in the charity golf tournament.
Funds were used to send 150 children to NICK’s Camp (Nothing is Impossible for Cancer Kids), a five-day retreat for the children and their families at Camp Boggy Creek in central Florida.
Lou Chiera, a foundation board member and trustee, said he and family members established the charity in memory of their father, Nicholas Chiera, who died of cancer.
The group has established a scholarship program for campers and recently launched a program, in partnership with Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and The First Tee of Broward, to provide children a golf camp that also teaches life skills and character development.
“This started out as a tribute to our father, and in 22 years, we’ve raised millions of dollars to send thousands of kids to camp and dozens to attend college,” Chiera said.
Ingrid Carranza, whose son Eduardo was diagnosed with leukemia at age 9, said he benefited greatly from the camp experience.
“His immune system was down, he had to wear a mask to go outside, and he had to leave school and lost touch with his friends,” said Carranza, of Greenacres. “He felt alone, and at the camp he made new friends who were going through the same things he was. At the camp, he can be a kid again, play with other kids, swim, fish, shoot archery and ride horses, and the doctors and nurses are on call there, so I never had to worry.”
Eduardo, 13, is now cancer-free.
“At the camp, you feel like you’re at home with family,” he said. “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor and help kids with cancer.”
Megan Hamerdinger was diagnosed with leukemia in 1995 and went to the camp from 1997-2004. She returned to serve as a camp counselor, and as a scholarship recipient, she got her master’s degree in social work and today works with sick children and their families.
“It’s really hard to explain to your friends why you’re not in school or don’t feel well or can’t do certain things, and when I was in camp with other kids who understand, we connected and became friends and remained friends,” said Hamerdinger, of Boynton Beach. “I’ve now been in remission for years and I’m doing great, and the support I got there is what formed my personality and made me who I am today.”
For more information, visit Chierafamilyfoundation.org or call 954-480-8809, ext. 21.
Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel