Last week the Camp Kesem University of Richmond chapter hosted Kesemania—a recruitment campaign, which can be used to begin the application process for Camp Kesem counselors.
Camp Kesem is a national, student-run nonprofit organization that provides a free, week-long summer camp for children whose parents have been affected by cancer. The University of Richmond chapter was founded in 2009 to provide a safe, supportive and fun summer camp experience for local children.
“We are the only national organization that works with this demographic,” said sophomore Marissa Parker, co-director of the Camp Kesem Richmond chapter. “Our camp is completely free to the campers’ families because they have so many medical bills to worry about already.”
In 2013 alone, Camp Kesem Richmond involved more than 50 campers and 25 student volunteers. During the school year, students plan the camp schedule, train to be camp counselors, work with eligible families in the community and raise funds to ensure it is free for all involved.
“Camp Kesem provides opportunities for students to serve as leaders on campus and in the community and form strong friendships with other counselors,” Parker said.
During Kesemania, the Richmond chapter hosted two events: “Pie a Counselor,” where students threw pies at counselors’ faces, and a show from improv group STC, where students bought raffle tickets. The winning prize was $50 to a charity of the student’s choice, and the money raised went directly toward the campers.
There was also a profit share at Goin’ Bananas, information sessions for people interested in being counselors and a meeting where students spent time with past counselors.
“The profit share was really successful,” said sophomore Erica Fitchett, operations coordinator of the Camp Kesem Richmond chapter. “There were a lot of people. I know some of the sororities brought their new members so that was a ton of business right there.”
The budget this year to host 75 to 80 campers is around $46,000, Parker said. The money goes toward paying for the campsite, food, activities, medical supplies, travel for nurse and health professionals and recruitment materials for campers and counselors.
“We lower our costs by having a lot of supplies donated and working with our fantastic campsite that helps provide so many fun activities at low costs,” Parker said.
The bond that counselors form with their campers is a special one, Parker said, because they see children who are forced to grow up at a young age get the chance to be a kid again for a week.
“In six short days, we’re able to form a support that is life-changing for many of our campers and impactful for so many counselors,” she said. “Personally, I admire the strength that my campers have.
“As a counselor at camp, you’re able to just be silly and have so much fun with the children but also support them when they open up about their experiences with cancer. It’s a very special bond that is unique to Camp Kesem.”
Counselors often ask themselves and each other the question, “Why do you Kesem?” Fitchett said. Although her own answer to this has changed in the past, Fitchett knew it would never change again after she went to camp for the first time this past summer.
“I Kesem for the children who I met at camp, because they have taught me how to be strong and optimistic even when facing the realities of something as awful as cancer,” she said. “In other words, I Kesem for the smiles on their faces.”
Contact reporter Sabrina Islam at email@example.com