A visit from a legendary astronaut, premium seats at a Houston Astros game and cruising on a fleet of yachts — MD Anderson pediatric patients and their siblings experienced all of this and more at the second annual Camp H-Town, a free camp for children touched by cancer, hosted by the Four Seasons Hotel Houston.
The five-star hotel served as camp headquarters in July for 32 patients and their siblings ages 9-12 years, along with a team of MD Anderson medical staff and volunteers. Camp H-Town board members were an integral part of the camp, traveling with the campers to popular local spots and participating in daily activities.
Tom Segesta, general manager, and his wife, Robin, started the oncology camp five years ago in Chicago with the goal of bringing camp to kids in the urban setting.
“Houston is such a rich and diverse city with so many unique places to experience right in our back yard,” says Segesta. “Our camp is an opportunity for these kids to experience life from a different view.”
Camp H-Town kicked off with a “Reach for the Stars”-themed party for patients and their families at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Following the party, campers traveled on a double-decker bus to the hotel, where employees cheered their red-carpeted entrance. An entire floor of the hotel was transformed into a campground with rooms filled with bunk beds. Some rooms served as camp headquarters with medical treatment stations.
“Camp H-Town is a great partnership for our hospital,” says Tomika Gamble, program manager of Pediatrics-Support Programs. “In addition to the fun and unique experiences our patients and their siblings have at this camp, they also have a chance to bond with other kids who are going through a similar experience.”
Gamble worked with Camp H-Town’s camp directors, Rich and Elisa Brundige, who organized a host of daily activities for the campers at the hotel and around the city. Campers enjoyed swimming and arcades at Market Square Tower, a Houston Astros game at Minute Maid Park, a visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, an outing to the Houston Museum of Natural Science and a leisurely cruise at the Lakewood Yacht Club.
A special highlight for campers was a visit from Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash players, along with their mascot, Diesel. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, the hotel arranged a visit with former NASA astronaut Fred Haise, who shared memories of his Apollo 13 mission. For the last night of camp, patients got dressed up, with styling by Full Blown and Dress for Success, for a party at the House of Blues. Camp ended with a talent show and awards ceremony for patients and their families.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without the generosity of our donors,” says Segesta. “We have so many businesses and individuals who stepped up to support this camp.”
In April 2019, the hotel hosted the second annual Celebrity H-Town Chefs Against Cancer, with more than 20 upscale restaurants showing off their culinary skills while providing some of their signature specialty dishes. The charity event raised $45,000, and all funds benefited the weeklong camp.
Segesta says he is looking forward to next year, as Camp H-Town recently received its 501c3 certification. He expects support for the urban camp for pediatric patients will continue to grow each year.