A Week Away

By on July 9, 2014

Cancer patient starts non-profit to provide relief for stressed families

Jane Weigel (left) and Caleb Walker (right) helped to promote A Week Away, a pending non-profit organization focused on helping families in need, at Saturday's festivities in the park. (photo by Brittany Horn)

Jane Weigel (left) and Caleb Walker (right) helped to promote A Week Away, a pending non-profit organization focused on helping families in need, at Saturday’s festivities in the park. (photo by Brittany Horn)

Nestled under the shade at Lititz Springs Park on Saturday, a table sat with a simple message emblazoned upon it: “A Week Away.”

For 23-year-old Caleb Walker, A Week Away once meant getting to spend a single week not focusing on the disease that has consumed his life since his diagnosis with anaplastic ependymoma, a cancer that attacks the brain and spine, in 2009.

But today, A Week Away is the pending non-profit organization Walker founded in hopes of giving other families just like his time away from any life-threatening disease that changes the way a family functions and thrives.

“When you get away, you get to feel normal,” Walker said, remembering the weekend trip he took with his best friend that sparked the idea for the charity.

Walker’s story is not unlike many of those battling cancer. After six brain surgeries (the most recent in October) and continued stints in the hospital for chemotherapy and radiation treatments, he is both humble and positive about what he has been through.

Today, he lives with a tumor on an artery in his brain and the constant reminder that cancer is alive and well in his young body.

But Walker refuses to give in.

In October, he left his full-time job to pursue a passion that can change the world. A Week Away was quickly born.

“Every day, I wake up and know I’m trying to change lives,” he said.

Unlike other charities focused on granting wishes and trips to families suffering with cancer, Walker’s organization is non-specific when it comes to disease. A Week Away looks to give every member of a family a week away from the stress and nuisance that comes with fighting an illness.

What that means for families is that planning, paying for and providing care during a week away is completely covered, as well as the potential earnings lost by caregivers during this time away.

“This is really meant to be a stress-free week,” Walker said. “Oftentimes, we don’t realize what it’s like for the caregivers.”

The organization, though, needs some help.

Newly-formed and raring to go, Walker has hopes of sending a prospective family on their first trip in August, but funding and donations are always needed.

Those interested can donate online at AWeekAway.org or through donating the use of a vacation home or time share to a family in need. A Week Away will also be hosting a golf outing at Foxchase Golf Club on Sept. 18. More information on the trip can be found online as well.

Walker’s mother, Lynn, also helped to man the table Saturday, adding that as parents, she and her husband can still recall how lucky they felt to have even had a full 18 years with their son upon walking into the chemotherapy treatment room for the first time.

“There we are, thinking our world is coming to an end,” she said, “and we looked at each other [and around the room]… some of the these people don’t even have that.”

Speaking from the caregiver perspective, she emphasized how important and strengthening it can be for families to have the opportunity to be together without the pressures of the disease weighing them down.

“You see things,” she said, trailing off and looking over at her son. “This is important.”

To contact Caleb Walker or to donate to A Week Away, go to www.AWeekAway.org or contact Caleb at caleb@aweekaway.org.

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