Taking a bigger role

Thursday, November 18, 2010

After surviving a year following his diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer, all Jerry Sorkin wanted to do was celebrate. So during Lung Cancer Awareness Month in November 2008, he searched for some way to say thanks and to help raise funds.

But he found nothing.

"No black-tie gala; no dinner; no road race; no walk on the National Mall," the Bethesda resident said.

With the help of the LUNGevity Foundation, Sorkin, 45, and his friends formed Breathe Deep DC, a 5K walk to help raise awareness and funds for lung cancer research.

In its second year, the event, held Nov. 7 on the Mall, drew more than 1,500 participants and raised more than $270,000 for the foundation, which funds cancer research.

Breathe Deep DC "is a place where survivors can come to be with others and to feel the power of a community rallying in support of them," said Sorkin, whose two daughters, Emma, 10, and Claire, 8, also participated.

But the focus of the event wasn't just to fundraise. Students from George Washington University provided activities for children, something they do as a part of the Camp Kesem team. Camp Kesem - or Camp Magic - is a free, week-long sleepover in the summer in Edgewater for children 6 to 13 who have parents diagnosed with cancer.

"We were more than happy to take a bigger part than just walking," said Calder Stembel, 21, co-chairman of George Washington's Camp Kesem team. "We wanted to bring a little bit of camp to the event."

And for Emma, camp is the highlight of summer.

"There are kids and counselors who understand what I'm going through and are willing to listen," said Emma, who has attended the camp three times. "It's like I have two families: my real family and my Camp Kesem family."

Sorkin said both events help families deal with a difficult period of uncertainty. He said patients, and their families, need a strong support system to confront their illness. "This is incredibly important to people impacted by lung cancer because too often they are battling the disease in silence or without support," he said.

To donate to LUNGevity, visit www.lungevity.org. To learn about Camp Kesem, visit www.campkesem.org/GW.

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