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Malin’s Lasting Legacy

A journey of friendship and resilience that inspires us all

After eight-year-old Malin was diagnosed with DIPG/DMG brain cancer in June of 2022, family friend and now Aldersgate board member, Anne Solomon, encouraged her parents to check out Camp Aldersgate. “We had heard of Camp Aldersgate peripherally but had never been involved before,” said Patty, Malin’s mom.

Jonathan, Malin, and Patty Opitz with Charlotte.

Anne’s daughter, Charlotte, and Malin were the best of friends and loved attending sleep-away camps together. After much consideration, Malin’s parents, Patty and Jonathan, agreed to let her go to Aldersgate’s October Weekend Camp with Charlotte.

“Malin and Charlotte loved being adventurous and independent together. Aldersgate allowed them to spend time away from us (parents) and just enjoy being kids at camp,” said Anne.

Malin and Charlotte perform at the talent show.

During the weekend, Patty and Jonathan received several updates and photos from the staff.

 

“You could tell from the pictures that’s what she needed. She even said that was a boost for her to feel better about what was going on and to be around other kids made her feel like a kid,” said Patty.

 

Katie Hall, Program Manager at Camp Aldersgate, described how much fun these two best friends had that weekend. “Most campers are shy their first time at camp, but not Malin. At the talent show that Saturday evening, Malin and Charlotte performed a skit that involved Malin narrating, while Charlotte wore a unicorn head and acted everything out. It was incredible!” she said.

Malin joined Charlotte at three weekend camps that fall. “It meant that much to her that she wanted to go one more time…You could see how happy she was to see her friends and counselors. They gave Malin so much during those last months, and it meant so much to us. When she would come back, you could tell she had a breath of fresh air,” said Patty.

Malin at the archery range.

Malin died after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer on January 31, 2023. Following her passing, friends and family gathered for a special ‘celebration of life’ event. Several Camp Aldersgate staff and counselors attended, and Katie even spoke at the service. It was apparent that Malin had left an incredible imprint on her friends, family, school, community and Camp Aldersgate.

 

“She was a strong, courageous and incredible young lady who brought so much joy and laughter to Camp Aldersgate in such a short amount of time. She always had a smile on her face and a kind word to give, even during the times she may have felt the worst. Her laugh was contagious, and she was always looking for ways to make those around her laugh and experience joy,” said Katie.

 

GIVING BACK

Several months later, Jonathan and Patty decided they wanted to give back to Aldersgate. “We wanted to get involved with something that would be considered her type of philanthropy, what she was good at and what she would have enjoyed doing,” said Jonathan.

Together with Anne, Charlotte and Malin’s grandparents, Jonathan and Patty decided to make Camp Aldersgate’s 2023 October Weekend Camp extra special. They decorated the Commons and the cabins, bought snacks and planned activities. Halloween was one of Malin’s favorite holidays, so this felt like the perfect way to get involved.

“We wanted to do something we would normally do with Malin, just on a larger scale with more kids. These kids deserved to have that kind of Halloween camp,” said Jonathan.

Opitz family

Participating in honor of Malin was also impactful for Charlotte as well, said Anne: “To get to go back out there and make those other kids’ time special at camp was really meaningful to her. And she had fun. They brainstormed what kind of games we should play and what kind of décor we should get. She wanted to give back to something that gave so much to her.”

Seeing the campers that weekend helped Jonathan and Patty understand even more why Camp Aldersgate was such a respite for Malin. “You’re encouraged so much. You’re loved so much. You’re brought to as high as you want to go in that activity. It’s rare for anybody to find a place where everything is positive, and everyone is giving you everything they’ve got. We didn’t understand it, until we came to a weekend camp. Once you see one, of course you see why they (campers) want to come,” said Jonathan.

Malin and Charlotte lead activity at weekend camp.

Giving back has always been in the Opitz family’s DNA and an important part of Malin’s childhood. Volunteering at this weekend camp was just a continuation of these family values and mindset. “The whole time we raised Malin, we taught her that philanthropy was important. If you’re in a position to help, then it’s your responsibility to do it. If you’re given a lot, you have to give a lot,” said Jonathan.

The Opitz say that Camp Aldersgate will always have a special place in their hearts and that they plan to stay connected. “All the kids that are at Aldersgate have a story to tell and are special and unique in their own ways and Aldersgate allows them to express that,” said Patty. “It will always be near and dear to our hearts. We will continue to be involved. It meant a lot to us.”

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