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Cancer patients’ children find refuge at camp

Camp Kesem opens applications for summer

Published: Monday, January 20, 2014

Updated: Monday, January 20, 2014 23:01



Campers and staff members at Camp Kesem pose for a picture.

For students looking to spend part of their summer giving back, counselor applications are now open for Texas A&M’s chapter of Camp Kesem, which provides the opportunity to spend a week of the summer with children coping with the emotional strain that cancer can place on a family.

Camp Kesem is a nationwide organization designed to bring happiness to children from ages six to 16 who have a parent diagnosed with cancer. The organization was established in 2002 and the Texas A&M chapter began in 2007.

While the first camp started with only eight campers, 90 are expected this year, said Camp Kesem volunteer coordinator Caitlin Laneri, senior mechanical engineering major.

Laneri said the goal of the camp is to give children of cancer patients the kind of week that lets them be stress free, something that is often taken away from them by their parent’s illness.

“Kesem is the Hebrew word for magic, and this is exactly what occurs at camp,” Laneri said. “These children are an often overlooked community who have been affected by their parent’s cancer.”

Camp Kesem is able to host children free of charge because of member fundraising throughout the year. At the Texas A&M chapter, members raise money through events like their annual dodgeball tournament, banquets and selling tacos on Northgate.

“Individually, each counselor is required to raise $500, which covers both their own time at camp as well as a camper’s,” said member Brandon Dawson, senior political science major. “Many counselors, however, exceed this requirement, with some bringing in upwards of $1,000.”

While the parents of campers are incredibly grateful and the camp is rewarding for their children, Dawson said the counselors gain something in the experience as well.

“Being a counselor at Camp Kesem is not like being a counselor for just any camp,” Dawson said. “Camp Kesem counselors gain what I believe to be the most rewarding experience that one can have during their college career.”

Dawson said being a counselor is a balance between being a mentor and a friend, ensuring that campers experience the carefree kind of fun that all children deserve.

“The campers look to you not only as the ‘cool college kid,’ but as their role model too,” Dawson said. “These children, many of whom have never really had a childhood due to their parent’s illness, are given an opportunity to be kids again. The smiles on the children’s faces while at Camp Kesem are more than worth it.”

For Camp Kesem director Hailey Armstrong, senior biology major, the experience is priceless.

“Its amazing how a week at Camp Kesem not only changes the lives of campers, but of all the counselors as well,” Armstrong said. “Camp Kesem is about making magic in the lives of children of cancer patients.”

Applications for counselor positions will be open online until Jan. 24, and the organization is looking to accept about 45 counselors for this summer.


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