In each issue of HemAware, we “Take 5” with people in the bleeding disorders community and spotlight their efforts with just five questions. This month, HemAware met Cameron Siemers, a 26-year-old with severe hemophilia A and HIV/AIDS who started the nonprofit Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope.
How did the Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope get started?
I spent most of my life in and out of hospitals. When I turned 18, I was an adult, but I didn’t know what to do with a future I wasn’t supposed to have. You’re not really prepared—a lot of kids aren’t—when you’re told you’re going to die at a young age. I noticed a breakdown of programs for when these kids become adults. For some young people, going to college is such a hardship when you have medical bills to pay, so I wanted to give them a helping hand. That’s why I started the foundation a little over two years ago.
What is a Life Grant™?
A Life Grant is a $5,000 award given to someone between the ages of 18 and 28 with a life-threatening illness who has a project or wants to do something with their life—basically, to give them help to do something, plan for a future they weren’t supposed to have. We award grants to individuals who are making a difference in their lives and those of the people around them.
How many Life Grants have you given out?
We’ve given out five awards so far. Rachel, our first winner, is incredible. She’s a three-time survivor of Askin’s tumor [a malignant sarcoma], and I think the only person to survive it after a [stem cell] transplant. She’s going to school to get her art therapy degree. One of her goals is to put an art therapy center in her local hospital. A lot of hospitals won’t spend money on something like that, but she says it saved her life.
How have you raised money for the foundation?
The foundation started with personal donors. Then a couple of people threw fundraisers for us, and now we have a few people who donate every year. We had our official kickoff event on September 20, 2008, which raised more than $100,000 for the foundation. Also, my cousin started a club at her school, and it helped her raise money for us. The school is planning a 5K race for us this year. We’ve also had donations from Debbie Bickerstaff and the Bickerstaff Foundation, Peter and Candy Marshall at Suite Solutions, and Courtney Cox Arquette and David Arquette.
What’s next for the foundation?
This year, we have some pretty cool goals. We want to double the number of Life Grants and do 10 instead of five. Also, we want to raise $1 million. We don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we’re just going to do it! We have a fundraiser coming up in September 2009.
Also, we want to keep getting the word out. We want more Life Grant applications coming in, so we are grateful to your publication for helping us get the word out. I have spent most of my life sick and waiting to die. The last couple of years I decided I do not get to choose when I die, but I certainly can have a say in how I am going to live. If I can help people and make a difference, you can, too.
For more information visit the Cameron Siemers Foundation for Hope Web site.