Camping With A Cause: The Story of Camp Hale

SANDWICH, NH- Nestled on the peaceful shores of Squam Lake in New Hampshire, the Camp Hale grounds serve as more than just a getaway from the hustle & bustle of Boston. First incorporated in 1900 and now one of the oldest camps in the country, its mission is to offer children from Boston neighborhoods that may not otherwise have the opportunity a “refreshing, enlightening and meaningful camping experience.”

“It’s been a lifesaver for a lot of people and taught them about love, community, diversity and how to deal with it,” says Aaron Dushku, Vice President of the Camp Hale Alumni Association who recalls many years he worked summers at the Camp. “The friendships that you make in those situations.. there’s 8 kids in a cabin together, they don’t know each other when they show up yet they create lifelong bonds because they go back year after year.” Today, the Camp is attended mostly by children from the South End and lower Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston. Though the camp may have brought in children from many different areas of the city and of all ethnicities over the years, some things remain the same. “The camp program has songs and activities, of course time on the lake. You see the way things change like the telephone game over the years, but you also see a lot of traditions that stay the same.”

For Aaron, serving on the Camp Hale Board was a family tradition that he was proud to be a part of. “Our family gains so much from Camp because of what it gave to my dad. He grew up in a rough neighborhood. People who grew up in these neighborhoods came from difficult circumstances.” Aaron’s father, who was an active member of the organization, decided to also his own children to Camp Hale. There was only one problem: since it was a dedicated boys’ camp, his daughter was not able to attend. “My little sister is an actress (Eliza Dushku) and she watched as her three older brothers went to camp every summer and was bummed she couldn’t go. Over the years, she saw how dedicated our family was to the camp.”

This inspired the actress to use her talents to help give back to the organization in a special way that would forever change the future of Camp Hale. In a 2009 celebrity basketball shootout, Eliza was able to raise $60,000 in heels as she dominated a game of Horse that she used to fund the beginning of a girls’ program at the Camp. She didn’t just stop there, however. “She also auctioned off clothes from different television shows she’d been in and got some of her friends to donate in Hollywood,” explains her brother Aaron. Eliza’s efforts transformed Camp Hale from being strictly a boys’ camp to offering a program that would be welcoming young women as well.

Overall, Aaron estimates the Camp Hale Alumni Association has raised several million dollars to sponsor inner-city youth to go to camp, and it’s an organization shows no signs of stopping. “The alumni just keep coming back, and we have a really active situation,” says Aaron.

Unfortunately, the organization’s most anticipated charity event of the year that was slated for this spring had to be put on hold until November due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Yet that doesn’t mean this year’s coveted Casino night will be anything short of spectacular. “This is our big one,” says Aaron, describing the catered event by Chilacates that emanates an old-Boston feel in a setting surrounded by gaming tables provided by Boston Charity Casinos. Given the current circumstances, “Every single one of our vendors have been wonderful,” says Aaron.

With so many events being rescheduled, there’s quite a bit we can fill our calendar up with for the fall. Personally, I’m making sure Camp Hale Alumni Association’s Casino Night is one I don’t miss! If you can’t make it there yourself, no worries. Look forward to a video coming on the big event this fall!

Helping From Home: Miss Pink Organization Asks For Cards

It’s the reason why places like Hallmark make so much money: a simple card is a quick and easy way to say everything from I love you, to happy birthday, or even just a ‘Hey, I’m thinking of you.’ The thing we forget from time to time as we rush between soccer practices and parties or back and forth to the grocery store for toilet paper is that ultimately, it’s the thought that counts. Which is why I’m encouraging you to grab whatever you have on hand regardless of if that is a stack of blank cards, construction paper and markers, the whole family or a friend over FaceTime to get started on making someone’s day just a little bit brighter.

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, we all know that people around the world are struggling in many different ways. At the Miss Pink Organization, they understand the everyday struggle of those who have had or are currently battling cancer to both avoid the virus at all costs to protect their weakened immune systems while still receiving chemotherapy treatments. “Right now, anybody going to a hospital to have chemotherapy or anything relating to fighting cancer- you’re going in by yourself. Most of the time that’s a 5, 6, 7, 8 hour day hooked up to a machine. At this point, I don’t even know if they’re letting them walk around in the hospital. They’re just there with nobody to hold their hand, nobody to talk to,” says Fabianna Marie, Director of Pink Warrior Relations & Miss Pink 2017 who is a survivor herself. What originally started as an idea to set up a team to FaceTime the warriors blossomed into a major mission: collecting handwritten cards from as many people as possible to help bring a smile to those going through treatment. Fabianna told me about one of the warriors she recently spoke to, and why she believes these cards will make such a big impact. “She’s 28 years old with a one year old child. When she was going for her infusion she was all alone. For her, me FaceTiming helped- it just made the difference between sitting there and feeling so bad for yourself hooked up to a machine where you know you’re going to be sick afterwards and then let’s put the pandemic on top of it all.”

The pandemic has added a never-before-seen level of stress for many of the warriors Fabianna has gotten to know through the Miss Pink organization, including herself. “When someone is immunocompromised, it changes everything,” she explains. “You don’t look immunocompromised on the outside, so nobody understands that I’m still going through it if I go outside the house. It’s a huge deal to stay home and be proactive with your own health when lot of people aren’t worried that .” Her own family has had some very difficult decisions to make in recent weeks. “My husband has been a Boston foreman on a construction site, and was the only one going outside the house. His major concern was, nobody else could bring (the virus) into our home other than him. So for him, it was the push and pull of: Do I go to my job and make money for my family, or do I stay home and take that worry off our plate? Until the government put that ban into place, he had planned to tell his boss that he would prefer to be laid off. He was scared,” she admits. Yet through this struggle, Fabianna is well aware that she is far from alone. “Anybody that’s going through that, we’re all scared. There is no other way to put it because we don’t know about tomorrow. We don’t know where this is going at this point.”

HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS: There IS something you can do about it! Just making a card with sweet notes of encouragement can bring a moment of peace to those who need it most. It’s a simple action that can not only help you pass the time during your quarantine (BIG SHOUT OUT TO YOU if you are staying home to protect others!!!!) but also serve as a fun activity to do with the kids, your significant other, or your best friends over video chat. If you have a bit extra to spare, you can even go the extra mile of chipping in a gas or grocery card for your warriors to help them make it through this time financially as well.

To see mine, check out the video I made below! (Please be kind as I test out a new editing tool this week working solely from my smartphone.):

More about The Miss Pink Organization: Our mission is to relieve stress of the financial burden that can occur during cancer treatment. This can be due to leave of absence from work, lost income or fixed income. We offer support through meals, childcare, cleaning services, gas and grocery cards, and other special circumstances that can interrupt the effectiveness of treatment on a case by case basis. 

Their Turn To Give: Assabet Valley Technical High School Donates Unused Supplies To Healthcare Professionals

A table of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) at Assabet Valley is ready to be donated to local healthcare facilities.

MARLBOROUGH- With schools officially closed until at the earilest April 7th, Assabet Valley Technical High School Principal Mark Hollick found something while he was walking the empty halls of his school: an abundance of unused, brand new personal protective resources in a time where his community-like many others- is in need. “Everybody is calling for gloves, face shields, N-95 masks, so we just did a basic inventory of what we have. We’re out of school for at least three weeks, and have a number of programs including Health Technology and a Licensed Practical Nursing programs. In that, obviously, they have lessons and do all kinds of practical applications and scenarios where they have to wear this protective equipment. So we knew that we had some equipment in the building, and even in other areas that I didn’t even think about but made sense: Auto Collision, Auto Technology, and in Culinary Arts for rubber gloves.”   

​​Jumping into action, Hollick sent a message to his staff to see how they could help get their resources out to the local community. “I put out a message to all our staff members-we’ve had staff working from home and as our maintenance team has been cleaning the building room by room- so under their direction, I’ve been going in with a cart and collecting all of the supplies we can donate.” Thanks to their help, Hollick was able to locate enough resources to make sizable donations to both Coleman House in Northborough and Marlborough Hospital. “At the end of this, we anticipate that we will have donated 12,000 protective gloves, 95 of the N-95 masks, 120 pairs of eye protection, 200 medical gowns, and 200 other face masks,” says Hollick. “We know these facilities have been asking for them so it’s really just getting to the needs of all the different local partnerships we have in our local community.” 

Boxes of supplies en route from Assabet Valley Tech to Coleman House in Northborough.


Assabet Valley’s 20-year relationship with The Coleman House, an elder care facility in Northborough where students have been doing clinical hours, was the first to receive a major donation. “When Kathy Reagan (of Assabet Valley) made that donation, what she described to me was Patrick (of Coleman House) was almost in tears because of the generosity,” says Hollick. “They’ve done so much for us, and this is a time where we can give back a little bit.”

On Wednesday morning, the high school plans to donate a second round of supplies to Marlborough Hospital. “It’s the overall Assabet spirit to rise to the occasion when the community calls out for something. We always try to the best of our ability to  be a good neighbor, and a good partner in the community.”

Making A Splash: Special Olympics MA Hosts Polar Plunge Challenge At Exhibit A Brewery

FRAMINGHAM- “Ladies first,” my oh-so-gentlemanly husband said with a smile as we stepped up to the edge of the pool at Exhibit A Brewery in Framingham. A frigid 46 degrees outside, there are very few reasons why I might be about to jump into a pool filled with cold water. Yet watching so many others go before me and knowing the reason why we were all there, I had put on my (pink) big girl leggings prepared to make a splash…literally!

Raising one hand and holding my nose, I jumped in knowing the funds that each team raised at the day’s Polar Plunge Challenge were going to benefit the Special Olympics of Massachusetts. It’s a cause that is close to the heart for Kelsey Roth, General Manager of Exhibit A Brewing in Framingham, who explained how he began volunteering with the organization just last year at their summer games and was inspired to bring the Polar Plunge Challenge to his own backyard. “I was just blown away by what they do to help people with intellectual disabilities and create such a great environment for them. So often, people who have intellectual disabilities are always focused on the things they CAN’T do. But for the time that they’re out there doing these activities, it’s really focused on what they CAN do that day and for those people, it’s a life changing moment.”

Thanks to the combined efforts Kelsey, Exhibit A’s Head Brewer Matt Steinberg and just over 50 fellow plungers, Fundraising and Events Coordinator for the Special Olympics Meghan O’Neil reported $8,500 was raised. “This goes towards the venues, athletes’ uniforms, equipment, lift tickets for skiers, things like that,” she explained. “This helps them focus on competing and having fun and meeting new people, so we’re really excited for the support that comes from the community.”

Also contributing to the plunge in a more unique way was a company called The Spa Wagon, a mobile sauna with an inside temperature of 190 degrees. As someone who is notoriously known for always being cold (I will always be #teamsummer), this caught my attention INSTANTLY and I just had to learn more about the fact that yes, you can actually have your own personal sauna brought virtually anywhere a truck & trailer could fit. “Originally, we’re from the Ukraine and it’s part of our culture since we were kids to go to saunas and try to get some quality heat. That’s one of the things that we were missing here, so we try to bring that culture here and give it to the public,” says Klim Gotovkin, who donated part of the day’s proceeds directly to Special Olympics MA. Of course, I had to go inside myself and check it out-and it did not disappoint! With steam billowing out each time you opened the door, it was a perfect way for those dressed for summer to get some much-needed warmth after the chilly dip.

Outside, the beer garden featured Exhibit A crowd favorites like the Cat’s Meow, Demo Tapes, and Goody Two Shoes. Inside, more craft options were on tap to pair with food from local restaurants to keep plungers warm (like the delicious Shepherd’s Pie made by Red Heat Tavern that I may or may not have had several mini-cups of. You know, because they’re mini, so no calories, right?!). The brewery’s presentation didn’t disappoint: those who participated in the challenge were invited to dine under perfectly hung string lights at a buffet set up alongside the giant tanks and canning line to make for a unique dining experience. Bummed you missed out? Not to worry-Exhibit A is known for hosting several shindigs throughout the year in the same setting, so just keep an eye on their website for the next upcoming event.

Want to see for yourself how much fun you can have giving back at their next event? Check out my vlog post below-don’t forget to hit SUBSCRIBE while you’re there! 🙂 To join in the next plunge, sign up for the next Special Olympics MA Polar Plunge on their website at: https://www.specialolympicsma.org/events/fundraising-events/polar-plunge/

Joe Andruzzi Foundation Gala Shines Light On The True Cost of Cancer

BosBabes Collaboration

FOXBOROUGH- The moment I walked off the escalators at Gillette Stadium for the 12th annual Joe Andruzzi Foundation Gala, there were two beacons of light waiting to greet me: champagne, and Lite-Brite. Yes, you read that correctly-the childhood toys many of us played with growing up had been stacked to create an impressive light-up photo backdrop, encouraging you to contribute by adding in your very own Lite-Brite from a pile conveniently waiting nearby.

It didn’t take long to learn why the well-known charity had chosen to partner with the childhood favorite. The theme of the evening was “Illuminate”, shedding light on the true cost of cancer-something the Andruzzi family knows all too well can be staggering for most patients.

Jen Andruzzi, CEO & Founder of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (shining bright in a GORGEOUS glittery dress, I may add) described her experience as she and her husband, a former New England Patriots player, navigated his devastating diagnosis. “Joe was hospitalized for 50+ days, and every day I was there probably once or twice, and you’re in and out of that parking garage. You’re paying to go in, you’re paying to go out. You’re paying for all of these extra expenses and at the same time you have all of your expenses that you are accustomed to,” she explains. “We were fortunate that we are in a position where we can afford it, but many of our friends we grew up with could not.” This experience lead Jen to create a foundation that donated directly to those suffering from cancer to help them pay for everyday expenses while managing the unexpected cost of their diagnosis, understanding that in Joe’s own words, “Nobody plans for cancer”.

Yet the couple didn’t just share their own story: they also invited several of those who have directly been able to benefit from the foundation’s mission to share their personal journeys as well. One man, whose wife was suffering from cancer, shared how his family went from stable to struggling in a matter of months. “My beautiful wife is Tracy. 5 years ago and seven months into our marriage, Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer. As her caregiver, I now had to juggle high-running emotions as well as a 50% reduction in family income,” he said, not a dry eye in the room as he described her heartbreak in leaving the job that she loved as a teacher to focus on her recovery. “This is the true cost of cancer,” he said in closing, only to be honored by an outpouring of applause.

“Cancer finds you,” Joe said in a one-on-one interview speaking directly to his experience fighting the terrible disease. “It finds anybody. We’re there to step in to help pay for those home bills that sometimes are forgotten about-mortgage, rent, utilities still need to be paid and the people that are putting money aside just not to pay for their medication but food on the table. We want to step in there to help them pay for that food so they can get their medication.”

To learn more about the Joe Andruzzi Foundation, visit their website: https://joeandruzzifoundation.org/