Before 1999, no one had thought of bringing camp to hospitalized children who cannot attend an away camp. The inspiration for such a camp came from a little girl we’ll call Willow. While volunteering at a Children’s Hospital, Camp Get-A-Well-A Founder Kate Davis met Willow, an angry little girl who would not participate in the game Kate was leading. Willow was eight years old and completely bald from her cancer treatment. Kate asked Willow if she didn’t like the game, exactly what did she want to do? Willow replied, “I want to be back at camp! They made me come back to the hospital!” While at summer camp, her cell counts had dipped dangerously low, and she had to be airlifted to the hospital. But all she wanted to do was swim, roast marshmallows around a campfire and make crafts with her friends. Because of Willow, Camp Get-A-Well-A was created.
Camp Get-A-Well-A started as a volunteer project and quickly became the life’s passion and of both Kate Davis and JoLanne Hanson who met in the year 2000 at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis Tennessee. JoLanne and Kate kept their dream alive of bringing camp to kids in the hospital and in 2003 Camp Get-A-Well-A became a non-profit 501c3. Until 2006, they have been non-paid volunteers devoting their evenings, weekends and vacations to camp. In 2007, JoLanne Hanson became the first and only paid employee of Camp Get-A-Well-A acting as Executive Director.
As a child with severe asthma, Kate spent much of her childhood in and out of the hospital. Knowing what it is like to be a sick child in the hospital and being able to relate to kids in the hospital has made, Get-A-Well-A Kate’s passion since she created the project to benefit the first hosp. Kate received the 1999 Raising Arizona Award presented by Target Stores for her innovative creation of Camp Get-A-Well-A.
Kate’s professional experience includes a broad range of skills and talents from her background working in human resources, staffing and recruitment as well as fundraising, grant coordination and event planning. She has worked for Target Corporation, Save the Family, Phelps Dodge Mining and FreeportMcMoRan Copper and Gold. Together, she co-founded Camp Get-A-Well-A with JoLanne Hanson.
Executive Director and Co-Founder of Camp Get-A-Well-A, JoLanne Hanson, is a one woman powerhouse: writing grants, directing board meetings, organizing camps, coordinating fundraisers, and managing volunteers and interns while conducting outreach to new markets. Running this non-profit takes a lot of time and dedication, but for JoLanne, it’s all a labor of love.
After college graduation, JoLanne started her career at Target Headquarters and spent 10 years working in their merchandising, marketing and advertising departments on exciting and challenging programs like Target TREATSEATS, SuperTarget, Target House, and Target Stars on Ice. In her last 2 years at Target, she was coordinating Target’s events for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Target House working with seriously ill children and their families.
Driven by the desire to continue helping those children, on a nickel-and-dime budget she joined a partnership with a friend she met at St. Jude, Kate Bach Davis, and started working on developing Camp Get-A-Well-A. For the next four years, while managing Bright Beginnings, a mentoring program for teenage moms and their infants within North Memorial Medical Center in Minneapolis, Camp-Get-A-Well-A forged ahead part-time evenings, weekends and vacations.
In the summer of 2007, JoLanne made the decision to run Camp-Get-A-Well-A full-time. Since that day, she has continued to grow the camp to a level she never expected and has been brought on as a consultant to help other organizations start similar experiences like Camp Get-A-Well-A in different parts of the country. Now running camps in Minnesota, Arizona, Texas, and Pennsylvania, Camp-Get-A-Well-A is proving to be a viable organization with tremendous growth potential.
JoLanne continues to strive to make the Camp Get-A-Well-A a fun experience possible for every sick child, no matter where they are.