I, like most, take the beginning days of January to reflect and set goals for change, growth, and success for the new year. So I thought it fitting to kick off 2015 and our Camper of the Week series with a truly inspirational lady, Ali Landes. She is the Executive Director of Wendy Walk, an incredible organization she started in 2010 with her siblings that raises funds and awareness for sarcoma through events around the country – most notably their fundraiser walks. Wendy Walk is the first international effort focused solely on finding a cure for Liposarcoma. I had the pleasure of participating in the NYC walk last year. Attending one is like being in color war except everyone is on the same team. There is a sea of purple shirts, the energy and love palpable, and everyone is there to honor the legacy of Wendy and root on the individuals, families, and loved ones of those affected by sarcoma.
Ali is a shining light. She is helping to lead the way in sarcoma research and building a network and community for those affected by this disease, one step at a time. I am humbled and awed by the work and contributions of both Wendy Walk and Ali. Read on how camp influenced who she is today and instilled her with the values of teamwork and her give back attitude.
Where did you go to camp, how many years did you attend, how long was your camp session length?
I attended Ken-Wood Camp in Kent, Connecticut. I attended for 7 years, and each summer was 8 weeks of camp!
Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I grew up in NY until I was 7 and then moved to Los Angeles. I now live in West Hollywood, CA.
What are you currently doing?
I am currently the Executive Director of Wendy Walk.
Wendy Walk was founded in 2010 by my siblings Matt, Jackie and myself to raise funds and awareness for Liposarcoma, a rare form of cancer that our mom, Wendy suffered from. Even though Wendy passed away in March of 2013, her legacy continues to be an inspiration to others battling sarcoma, and we are committed to helping families cope with the unique challenges this rare cancer brings. Wendy Walk is now one of the largest international research efforts funding sarcoma, and has raised over 2.2 million dollars to date.
Wendy Walk is dedicated to finding new treatments for sarcoma and serving as a valuable resource for patients who suffer from this rare disease. Our mission is to provide a support network that brings hope and encouragement to sarcoma patients, as people diagnosed with this disease often feel very isolated and afraid due to the lack of medical research and treatment options available
How has camp influenced what you do/your career path?
Camp taught me how to be a leader and how to rely on others to be your support system and family. Camp also allowed me to experience new exciting things even if I was scared and ultimately doing these things showed me how brave I could be. Whether it was being away from home, water skiing, or doing ropes courses, camp showed me just how much I was capable of achieving. Camp friends have also been instrumental in my ability to grow and maintain support for the mission of Wendy Walk. Camp truly fosters an environment of teamwork and support and truly influences how I approach life with an attitude of “giving back”.
What are your top three essentials that you packed in your trunk?
– Mr. Fan (I could not sleep at night without a fan)
– Bug Spray (mosquitos always loved to bite me, and for anyone that went to Ken Wood you know we had so many bugs)
– Sour cream and onion Pringles — if I could sneak them in I would—I was obsessed with them it was actually a problem
What are three words to describe your camp experience?
unforgettable, adventurous and mischievous
Who was someone at camp that you looked up to?
Shaun Raskin, my older cousin, always won girl of the week and girl of the bunk and eventually won girl of the year which was the biggest honor one person could receive.
Why do you think it is important to go to camp
I think attending camp is very important because you receive so much self-esteem from having best friends all over the country and having an experience that is unique and different then everyone else you go to school with. The relationships you build are very important as you move forward in life. I think camp really helps you establish who you are as an individual person away from the role you play at home in your immediate family and at school. It is also very important to experience a full-blown color war (even college basketball was not that competitive)
What is your favorite/most epic camp memory
Color war break out’s, DJ Jeff socials and also the burning of the numbers and everyone lighting candles and floating them out onto the lake. I remember hysterically crying as the year burned on the last night of camp and I knew it was time to go home.
Words of wisdom for current and future campers?
Don’t let being homesick deter you from going for the full 2 months. You don’t want to miss out on anything. Camp is a great place to try things you don’t think you are good at because no one is really judging you at camp. I am horrible at arts and crafts, but I loved making those clay pottery bowls and I didn’t care.
How do you keep in touch with your camp friends? What has kept you close through all of these years?
Now we keep in touch mostly over facebook, but back in the day we would write each other letters.
What is your favorite camp tradition?
I loved Sunday Night camp fire and I loved that before we started any camp-wide activity the oldest group (mom’s and pop’s ) would lead the whole camp in a series of old color war songs so everyone always knew all the same songs. I also loved lazy Sunday breakfast, where we would stand in line all morning to feed our camp big sister’s breakfast.
What was your favorite camp food?
When I was younger, I loved the days we would have bbq’s and have cheeseburgers, but as I got older I realized camp had an amazing salad bar and I remember loving making salads in the big wooden bowls they had.
What is your favorite camp cheer? (gave you some choices)
I loved: “you got to go go got to go, you got to fight, fight got to fight, you got to win, win, got to win….gotta gotta gotta gotta go fight win!”
I also liked “tie score, tie score, we want the high score”
or when it was a fake color war break out everyone would gather around and chant “fake out fake out we want a break out”!
What did you prefer – pool or lake?
I always preferred the lake, as the pool was colder and it smelled like chlorine
Favorite canteen candy?
Charleston chew (strawberry if they had it)
Favorite / most requested item on visiting day?
Food and extra disposable cameras because I was always out of pictures
What was your favorite camp activity?
Rest, tennis, or brother-sister hour
If you had to have something from camp tattooed on you, what would it be?
To meet to know to love to part is always the fate of a camper’s heart
What is your favorite camp word/expression?
“1234 this is color war!“
Favorite camp memento?
My white sweatshirt I got at 7 years that had Landes on the back
Did you ever get homesick at camp? How did you deal with that?
I always got homesick when I first got to camp, and during thunderstorms. When I heard my parents voice on the phone during phone calls I would cry immediately. I would also get very sad when they would leave visiting day and I would follow their car out the gate and cry. I dealt with it when I was little by snuggling with my camp counselors.
What were the biggest trends/must have items when you went to camp or representative of the time you went to camp?
Kate Spade bags – Petit bateau t-shirts (navy or light blue) so they would look like our uniform; Soffe Shorts; hot tools hair iron, Steve Madden platform sandals.
Any firsts at camp?
My first and only time doing graffiti by spray painting the bunk; Archery, sailing, watermelon toss, baton relay, having crushes on older guys
T-H-A-N-K-Y-O-U we thank you Ali for sharing and being a part of our Summer 365 community!
Live in NYC? Join Wendy Walk Cocktail Night on January 8th. Buy tickets or donate here.
Follow Wendy Walk’s footsteps on Facebook and Instagram.
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Reading Ali’s comments made me smile and teary. Her memories are so much like mine and the thousands of other girls who went to Ken-Wood. I went to camp with with Wendy, lived near aunt Phylis and cousin Sean, belonged to Brae Burn so I knew Ali’s grandparents. The Rosens are truly a WONDERFUL family that sure has had their share of heartache. Wendy Walk, what a beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman and wonderful cause.
Debbie Newman Bernstein
P.S. I think my kids were at camp with Ali and her siblings.