NC State Alums Return Home To Do Good

Torry Holt
Torry Holt
Terrence Holt
Terrence Holt

By Jordan Smith

Imagine that you are 6 or 10 years old and you just learned your mom or dad has cancer. Imagine how scary that would be. Two NC State University alums don’t have to imagine what that would be like, they lived it, and now they are making a difference for kids facing that reality.

Torry and Terrence Holt, former NC State football stars, created the Raleigh-based Holt Brothers Foundation in memory of their late mother Ojetta Holt-Shoffner who courageously battled cancer for ten years. The Foundation works to mentor kids who have a parent with cancer and provides them with the tools needed to understand and cope with such a life-threatening disease. The Foundation’s program, KidsCan!, as well as an affiliate program, Camp Kesem, work with children ages 6-16 and give them the support they need to learn about what their parents are going through, to express what they’re going through, and to find a way to cope and push forward. The Holt brothers emphasize these kids can do tremendous things, whether that’s becoming the next valedictorian or football star or interning with Dr. Cavanaugh at NC State to find the cure for cancer.

“These kids can have that opportunity to find the cure for the next mom or dad. This kid asked himself how he can be more involved, how to get more involved, and have an impact.” Torry believes, “KidsCan! and Camp Kesem provide opportunities for kids to find their outlet.”

KidsCan! empowers kids whose parents are battling cancer with the educational and emotional support they need as well as providing them with opportunities for fun. At some monthly group meetings, kids meet with oncology staff at local hospitals to learn about the disease and its treatments; at other meetings, the focus is placed on providing emotional support through group discussions, arts and crafts, and fun outings.

The Holt Brothers Foundation supports an already existing nonprofit that shares its mission, Camp Kesem North Carolina. Camp Kesem is a sleep away camp for children whose parents are facing cancer run entirely by college students. Camp provides kids a fun getaway, a rare opportunity for kids of cancer patients. The North Carolina chapter of Camp Kesem is currently run by Duke and UNC students but the Foundation is thrilled to expand Camp Kesem North Carolina’s reach by instituting a chapter at their alma-mater, NC State. The Holt Brothers Foundation has underwritten this new chapter for the next two years and is working to expand one week of summer camp to two weeks to meet demand.

Talking with kids at Duke's KidsCan!
Talking with kids at Duke’s KidsCan!

Torry is thrilled about the new NC State chapter: “It was only right to do that. Not to knock on Duke or UNC because we’re all making an impact to help these kids, but it was driving us crazy that where we come from doesn’t have their own chapter. We have the most intelligent students there.”

The impact of programs like KidsCan! and Camp Kesem is not insignificant. Torry shares that kids emerge stronger from these programs: “We have kids who come in that are totally isolated prior to coming to KidsCan! or Camp Kesem. They come away from there and they’re valedictorians, they’re on the football team or the cheerleading squad. Their relationship with their brother and sister is better, their relationship with their mom and dad is better. A lot of times they feel like it’s their fault and that’s one of the toughest ones, getting over the fact that it’s not their fault. It’s what happens. Here’s how you can deal with it, here’s how you can make things better, here’s how you can make your life better. So we see kids that come in that are totally isolated and become the talk of the town or the school. And it’s because our programs are giving them the chance to express themselves and more importantly to learn what their parent or guardian is actually going through. It helps them cope with everyday life.”

Torry and Terrence’s active involvement with these programs, taking the time to speak with and engage with kids, provides a model of what these kids can be. Through hard work and determination, Torry and Terrence have led successful careers and have returned to North Carolina doing their work to support the future of North Carolina. Torry emphasizes, “You don’t need to leave home to do good.”

The Holt Brothers Foundation focuses on mentoring kids whose parents battle cancer, and supports other programs that share their mission.

Jordan Smith is a recent graduate of NC State, holding her Master’s degree in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition.

One response on “NC State Alums Return Home To Do Good

  1. Jordan,
    Great article on the Holt brothers, I am most familiar with their work. I am the Volunteer Board Chair for Comfort Zone Camp, a free bereavement camp for kids, ages 7-17, who have lost a mom, dad or sibling. I am tethered to the NYL Foundation who has given over 6M to expand bereavement camps nationwide. In less than 5 years, we have sent nearly 500 kids to grief camp and trained over 600 Big Buddy volunteers. We have received significant funding from the Carolina Hurricanes, NYL, Credit Suisse, and Ronald McDonald Charities, to name a few.

    Our largest annual fundraiser is the CZC Charity Golf Classic, which features James Worthy (UNC, Lakers Hall of Fame). James lost his brother, Danny Worthy (a NC native also), several years ago. Danny’s only daughter attended our camp and James has been a tireless advocate each and every year in support of Comfort Zone Camp.

    Our golf tournament is our signature event to the community, we have 130 players and over 200 at our dinner reception, featuring James Worthy.

    I am in hopes in that you will consider a story on this worthy cause. We have over 70,000 children in NC that have lost a mom or dad, this does not include sibling loss. Our goal is to raise awareness and to let these children know they do not grieve alone… they have a loving community who supports and cares for them. Living without your loved one is hard enough.

    Please feel free to contact me at the email above or on my cell at 919.609.8222. Thank you for allowing me to share about this most worthy cause. Best, Mary

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