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How one group has been offering free trips to kids battling cancer for 20 years

David Vaught and Courtney Johnson, the respective founder and vice chairwoman of the Children of Yahweh Foundation, flank a special guest named Skyler in the lobby at “Christmas at Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show.” The 20-year-old foundation provides children across the Carolinas who cope with cancer, and their families, to an all-expenses-paid weekend in Myrtle Beach. More details at 843-446-8523, www.childrenofyahwehfoundation.com, or email childrenofyahwehfoundationinc@gmail.com.
David Vaught and Courtney Johnson, the respective founder and vice chairwoman of the Children of Yahweh Foundation, flank a special guest named Skyler in the lobby at “Christmas at Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show.” The 20-year-old foundation provides children across the Carolinas who cope with cancer, and their families, to an all-expenses-paid weekend in Myrtle Beach. More details at 843-446-8523, www.childrenofyahwehfoundation.com, or email childrenofyahwehfoundationinc@gmail.com. Courtesy photo

A local nonprofit with a drive to make wishes come true for children with cancer has hit the 20-year mile marker in making them special guests with their families for a weekend in Myrtle Beach.

Based nearby in Tabor City, N.C., the Children of Yahweh Foundation — which will have its annual golf tournament benefit at 9 a.m. Saturday at Colonial Charters Golf Club in Longs (for $50 per player) — is helped by a team of Grand Strand attractions and restaurants to fulfill its mission.

Courtney Johnson, the foundation’s vice chairwoman, said such fundraisers help in providing “all meals, boarding and local attractions, 100 percent expense-free” for children across the Carolinas who cope with cancer to share a memorable weekend with their families. Get more details at 843-446-8523, www.childrenofyahwehfoundation.com, or email childrenofyahwehfoundationinc@gmail.com.

Q: Celebrating 20 years of making smiles and memories for these households in which life and every single day cannot be valued enough, what’s the most common thread the foundation sees in all the families who visit?

A: Genuine gratefulness. They’re always so appreciative, and they never miss an opportunity to tell us, thank you. We also have families who donate to our foundation after we have hosted them for a weekend. So, not only are they overwhelmingly appreciative, but they believe in paying it forward, and that in itself is incredibly humbling.

Q: How are connections made for arrangements for these special guests? Through referrals from hospitals, specialists, and what other means?

A: To coordinate our families, we work closely with the social workers from several hospitals in North and South Carolina. The social workers will provide the potential families with the necessary paperwork. ... When the paperwork is completed, our founder, David Vaught, will contact the families directly and schedule the dates for their weekend with us. During the time before their weekend, we are in touch with the families and the social worker to make sure the child’s counts (immune system) are high enough to stay a weekend.

Q: What’s the most remote or faraway place in North and South Carolina each from which visitors have traveled?

A: We bring families from the Virginia line all the way to the Georgia line. For their convenience, we try to keep the drive time for the families to less than five hours. A drive any longer than five hours is a little much for the families to endure for only a weekend vacation.

Q: Statistically, how prevalent is pediatric cancer, and how have ratios changed in the number of youngsters affected and the survival rates?

A: More than 15,780 children are diagnosed each year — 43 a day. The five-year survival rate is up from 58 percent in the mid-1970s to 80 percent today.

Q: Besides the annual golf tournament, in what other ways does the foundation raise money to coordinate each vacation — which costs an average of how much to deliver?

A: We don’t do any other fundraisers other than our golf tournament. We have a yearly need for $10,000 to $12,000 to cover costs for 20 families to join us. Each family’s trip runs an average cost of $575, depending on the size of the family. We also give each child a devotional, a bible, and $200 cash so they can purchase souvenirs while at various attractions. We have sponsorships that come in throughout the year from individuals and businesses. The good Lord has had His hand on this foundation from the very beginning. He has provided every ounce of funding.

Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.

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