Helping Beyond the Desk: Susan Newman Gives Back
For the past 14 years, Susan Newman, a service desk technician on the IT Help Desk in Baird’s Louisville office, has been volunteering with Kids Cancer Alliance, a nonprofit organization that offers services for kids and their families who are dealing with cancer. She spoke with us about KCA’s activities and how her relationships with the kids there have grown.
How did you get involved with Kids Cancer Alliance?
I knew there was something missing in my life that I was supposed to be doing. I was invited to a luncheon for Kentucky Housing Corporation, and the keynote speaker was the executive director of the camp. She gave a very moving speech about how they needed volunteers. I listened to her and started crying, and people asked me, “What’s wrong?” I said, “That’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
What kind of work do you do with KCA?
My passion is the camps, which are a place for children who have or have had cancer. They all have scars, but other kids have the same scars, or they don’t have any hair, so they can all relate to each other. It's not a place where you go, “Oh, poor me.” It’s a place where you get to go play.
They’re also really meaningful for the siblings. Their parents are so caught up in the sick child that the siblings often get left out, and all they know is that their sick brothers or sisters are getting the special treatment. There was one sibling who used to come up to me and say, “I wish that I had cancer so I could come to camp.” This is a place for them to come together and talk about their issues and have fun.
The camps run from Sunday to Saturday, and there are four. Every year I go to each camp and spend a day, except there’s one older oncology camp for 13- to 18-year-olds, where I spend the whole week. I’ve had the same group of boys since they were 6 years old. I also do the teen weekender, where all the teenagers come together to do ziplining, arts & crafts.
Do you have relationships with the kids apart from the KCA camps?
Oh, definitely. They text me, they send me Facebook messages, they call me the camp mom. We have a weekend retreat where the families come, so the families can meet all of us volunteers and see the relationship we have with their kids.
Is there an image of the kids that lingers in your mind?
The little girls are always chasing after the little boys, and the little boys are always saying, “Would you please protect me?”
To learn how you can get involved with Kids Cancer Alliance, go to