Planning for Camp UKANDU began in 1985 when a small group of Candlelighters parents decided, despite their children’s illness, they wanted them to be able to go to camp like every other kid. Thanks to an initial grant by the Fred Meyer Charitable Trust, 48 campers brought to life the first Camp UKANDU on August 10, 1986 at Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp. In 1987, many of our special traditions began, including the dance, sleeping in teepees, and Memory Circle – where we honor those campers who have passed. In 1988, the all-volunteer staff took 90 campers from Mt. Hood to Camp Yamhill, and in 1989, the Ukandu volunteer board of directors began a long-standing relationship with the American Cancer Society. Just one year later, in 1990, the number of campers attending Camp UKANDU had increased to 132.

In 1996, our 10th year was marked by another move, and Ukandu was held at Camp Magruder, on the Oregon coast near Tillamook. This year also began our Counselor in Training (CIT) program - to provide an avenue of leadership development for former campers between the ages of 19 and 21. The success of this program (now known as LIT – Leaders in Training) is largely responsible for an average of 25% of our 80 volunteers, each year, being made up of former campers. This incredible experience and perspective grants our staff tremendous insight into what our population of campers is going through and, of equal importance, provides our campers with inspirational role models.

In 2002, the Board and volunteer staff worked extremely hard to earn accreditation by the American Camping Association, a notable distinction we maintain to this day.

In the fall of 2009 we implemented our first Teen Retreat at YMCA Camp Collins. Based in part on the success of the experience of the staff and teens at that first retreat, we moved our residential camping program to that location near Oxbow Park and camp has been there every summer since. Along with this new location, camp received new programming, such as a high ropes challenge course, archery, horseback riding, and rock climbing on a 70 ft. tower, along with our tradition programs, such as art, weaving, science, games and more.

In 2013 the American Cancer Society altered their mission and redirected their resources to focus exclusively on developing a cure for cancer. While we at Ukandu applaud this effort and hope they are successful, this change meant Camp UKANDU would be forced to shut down, or rush to establish our own infrastructure. Many volunteers and community members were determined to ensure children and families facing the rigors of childhood cancer would be able to enjoy a place where outrageous fun would continue into the future.

2016 marked our 30th anniversary and we are so proud that we have been providing hope and joy to this amazing group of deserving children. And with your help, we will continue to do so for years to come.