Battling cancer shouldn’t stop you from living life 100 percent to its fullest. That’s the sentiment behind the Send It Foundation, which crafts adventure trips of a lifetime for young adults who have been diagnosed. The foundation was the vision of Jamie Schou, who spearheaded its creation while fighting his own battle with cancer.
Katie Schou, who runs Send It with her two sisters and a team of six, talked with us about how travel—and fun—can heal.
How did Send It start?
KS: “My brother Jamie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when he was 33. He was living up in Truckee, and he was very much a part of the community there. He loved the outdoor lifestyle, the mountains, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, paddle boarding…the outdoors provided a lot of joy for life in him. Throughout his treatment he was very persistent in living his days doing the things he loved. Cancer wouldn’t take those moments from him.
“He ended up living in these two worlds, as he called it. There was his normal life where he was out skiing, being part of the community, and there was this cancer life. His doctors couldn’t understand who he was as a person—they were like, ‘Don’t ride your bike; don’t ski.’ At the same time, his friends couldn’t really get what he was up against, and the other patients he was meeting in treatment were, for the most part, much older than him.
“So there was this real disconnect. He wanted to create a community for young people battling cancer to meet each other, get each other’s support, and also to bring the activities that brought him so much happiness to other people in the cancer fight. So that’s where the idea for the Send It Foundation and the Send It brand started. Unfortunately, Jamie didn’t get to see our first trip. He passed away in July of 2014. My two sisters and I have pushed forward to make his vision come alive.”
What does "Send It" mean?
KS: “’Send it’ is an expression born out of the outdoor community. It’s something we say to each other to encourage each other to go for it, get it, send it. When Jamie was diagnosed with cancer, it became his mantra. It wasn’t just something we said to each other at the top of a mountain but also on the way to chemo.”
What does a Send It trip entail?
KS: “There is an application process, but we haven’t had to turn anyone away yet. Our programs are totally free of charge. We get all the funds from donations, a portion of our apparel sales, and fundraisers.
“The structure of our trips is pretty similar, though the activities change. They’re formatted like a long weekend, with participants arriving Friday and leaving Monday. In March we’re going to Squaw Valley in Tahoe, and we’ll take everyone skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. We’ll also do après ski yoga. We rent a cabin close to the lifts and everyone stays together. We bring in a chef for the weekend, and all our meals are prepared at the cabin with delicious organic food. There’s a hot tub at the house, too.
“Our Surf Bolinas trip in May is a surf and paddle trip, and it’ll be the same idea, Friday to Monday, staying together in a house, onsite chef, etc. We make sure there’s plenty of time to relax and hang out and have everyone get to know each other, because forming a support group is such a huge part of why we do these trips.”
What’s the most striking thing you’ve seen throughout the programs?
KS: “We actually see a lot of people who have found Send It and signed up and traveled here but have never done anything like this before. We had a girl in our first program who was 37 and had never ridden a bike and didn’t know how to swim. She signed up for a downhill biking and kayaking trip. It was so inspiring—here’s a woman who’s battling stage four cancer and she puts on full body armor and learns how to ride a bike in Tahoe.
“On our last trip, we had a woman who had stage three breast cancer. She was from rural Mississippi and had never seen snow or been to California. She learned how to ski with us. I don’t know if I would sign up for something like this if I’d never done it before. These are people who have gone through something so incredibly trying physically and emotionally, so these outdoor experiences become very empowering for them. They realize that they can do these things regardless of cancer.
“I’ve overheard some amazing things too. A couple of girls were complaining, saying how sore their arms were from paddling on the lake but how it feels so good that their bodies are aching from the activity and not because of treatment.”
Who joins the program?
KS: “We have people in between treatments and people in remission. Everyone has varying experiences with cancer. Of course we do make sure that they’re well enough to be at a high altitude and physically able enough. Their doctors ultimately sign off on them coming. Everyone’s well enough to be there, but not necessarily at 100%. We had a girl once who had just had surgery on her lungs three days before the trip. She was struggling, but so persistent.”
What do you hope to see Send It do in the future?
KS: “The vision is to be running as many trips as possible. I think ultimately we want to have a series of summer and winter trips in the Bay Area and beyond. We’d love to create bigger adventures too, and to be able to tier our adventures for different skill levels. Our main goal is to create a really big, beautiful community, and have more and more people find healing from these experiences.”
Donate to Send It here, or buy one of their cool T’s, hats, or hoodies here. Send It’s upcoming trips are Lake Tahoe Winter Adventure, March 11–14, and Surf Bolinas, May 13–16. To apply for an upcoming trip, fill out an application on Send It’s site, here.