Realtor helps kids with cancer have fun at camps in North Carolina, Charleston area

Ann Whalen is broker-in-charge of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors in Mount Pleasant. The outfit recently received a star for reaching the platinum level for its relocation services.

Witnessing children’s happiness in a “normal” setting is what keeps Ann Whalen involved in camps for youngsters with cancer.

She knows about cancer first-hand: her husband Dean died of cancer in 2007 and brother Ted Van Thullenar lost his battle with pancreatic cancer in 2002.

Whalen, broker-in-charge of Coldwell Banker United, Realtor’s office in Mount Pleasant, fits in her volunteer efforts with a full work schedule.

She has had ties with two real estate networks in the Charleston area since 1998, first at Century 21 Properties Plus and since late 2009 with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors and both have been accommodating to her volunteering.

Whalen is a driving force in the recent formation of Camp Rise Above. According to its mission statement, the group plans to work with 20 partners to design customized programs for campers age 4-18 with cancer and other serious illnesses. The group says there are more than 58,000 children with special medical needs including cancer, Type 1 diabetes, asthma, childhood obesity, burns, hemophilia and kidney disorders.

Camp Rise Above is reviewing possible sites for the camp property, which will be the locale for week-long sessions put on by the partner organizations.

Already, the group is holding Camps on the Go where volunteers set up camp-like settings at children’s hospitals statewide. The first three were at the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital, most recently in March.

“We bring an actual camping experience to different children’s hospitals around the state; camp fires, arts and crafts, singing camp songs.” The events are for all ages: “we even have babies,” she says.

For the hospital visits, camp fires aren’t real. But it’s the same atmosphere. “We put up scenes, put up tents. It gives these kids a camping experience.”

For Whalen, “It is so much fun,” she says.

Whalen also keeps in contact with Friends of Santa Claus of North Carolina, co-founded by her brother Ted and whose executive director is sister-in-law Barbara Van Thullenar. The organization sets up camps and events for children with cancer and for their siblings in western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.

Whalen, a Wisconsin native, grew up in Green Bay and moved to the capital, Madison, when she was 14. She’s a life long Packers football fan.

Her husband ran a franchise for Allied Van Lines moving company, and she managed an offshoot, Whelan Realty. The couple semi-retired to the Charleston area in 1989 and bought a house in Mount Pleasant, closing on the sale Sept. 15 of that year. Hurricane Hugo blew through a week later, and the house suffered extensive damage.

The couple regrouped, and Whalen still lives in Mount Pleasant.

Her four children, meanwhile, all live in the Charleston area after having grown up in Wisconsin.

Whelan is pleased she has been able to juggle her volunteer passion with her profession. She is currently a member of the Charleston Trident Association of Realtors board and previously served as a board director of the South Carolina Association of Realtors.

“I love real estate because I love the involvement with people,” Whalen says. “I don’t know any other career you can have that is involved with this many people.”

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