Suzie Randall of Novato’s Okizu wins a North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award
Professional background: Vice President Golden Bear Travel 1984-1999; Okizu Executive Director and Camp Director 1999-2015; Okizu Executive Director of Operations 2015-2020.
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology, University of California Santa Barbara
Number of staff: 9
Describe your organization: We are a support program for Northern California children with cancer and their families. The mission of Okizu is to help all members of families affected by childhood cancer to heal through peer support, respite, mentoring, and recreational programs.
For 39 years we have provided summer camps and family retreats, as well as programming for young adults, and bereaved teenagers.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I live in Novato with my husband and our four dogs. I started as a volunteer at Camp Okizu in 1989, and have been a camp counselor, program director, and was the camp director for many years.
It has been my honor to be connected to the families of Okizu over so much of my professional career. To see the campers making lifelong friends, and experiencing the benefits of being able to spend time with others who understand what they are going through is inspirational.
What is your role in the organization?
I am the Interim Executive Director
How has your organization been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We pivoted our camp programs to the virtual platform this year to ensure we were still supporting those who need us. We offered virtual programs for pediatric oncology patients, siblings of oncology patients, and families throughout 2020.
What are the ways your organization responded to increased demands for services, and fiscally, in what has your organization been forced to adjust?
In the spring, we were aware that people wanted to connect with Okizu in addition to our regular programs, and we developed and implemented Okizu On Demand.
Okizu On Demand was a virtual offering of games, activities, and other opportunities to connect, which campers could “drop into” when they wanted. With the cancelation of all of our fundraising events in 2020, we have remained focused on providing our mission and are planning for a strong 2021.
What achievement are you most proud of?
In 2020 with our pivot to virtual programs, we were able to have a camper participate in our programs from her hospital bed.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Unfortunately, last month, our camp property in Berry Creek was destroyed by wildfire. Our biggest challenge is the recovery of our site.
What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?
In early September, our camp was destroyed by the North Complex West Zone/Bear Fire. Our programs will continue uninterrupted – either virtually, or in person (at a rented camp) when it is safe to do so. Our next major project will be the recovery of our physical campsite, and the construction of a new camp.
What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?
Zoom has been a valuable resource to us this year. In addition to using it to keep our staff connected, we used Zoom for our virtual programs this year. Kids made solar ovens, did arts and crafts, played games and made friends – all over Zoom.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
Since we lost our camp in the fire, we have so many opportunities to recreate our program looking toward the future. Incorporating children in the hospitals in our programming and building out community or hospital based programming are both high on our priority list.
Describe a fond memory you have about working with a staff member or client of your organization?
At one of our Bereaved Teen Program weekends many years ago, we had an unusually early snow. The campers loved seeing camp covered in snow – something not many campers get to do.
Watching the campers play in the snow, and experience camp in a new way is something I remember fondly.
What other community involvement would you like people to know about?
I volunteer with Project Avary on their special events. They are a program for children whose parents are incarcerated.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Neil Hennessy. His commitment to giving back, and supporting the community is impeccable.
Current reading: Brene Brown, “Dare To Lead”
Most want to meet: Peter Rork, MD. He co-founded Dog is my Copilot, an organization that transports at-risk animals from overcrowded shelters to adoption centers in other geographic regions so that they can be adopted.
Stress relievers: A trip to the ocean
Favorite hobbies: Cooking and baking
Social media you most use: Instagram
Buzz word from your industry you dislike the most: Pivot
Typical day at the office: Zoom calls with our staff, donors and volunteers. Working with our board and site committee on the recovery of our camp after it was destroyed by wildfire.
Best place to work outside of the office: My home office, surrounded by my four dogs
Words that best describe you: Loyal, compassionate, and committed