By Guest Blogger MaryKent Wolff, co-director
In the United States, over 5 million children have been affected by a parent’s cancer. One nonprofit, Camp Kesem, is working nationwide to serve this population by providing them with a completely free and fun week of summer camp. Camp Kesem, which was founded in 2000 at Stanford University, served close to 9,000 children during the summer of 2018.
“Kesem” means magic, and that’s exactly what Camp Kesem is. A student-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to supporting children through and beyond a parent’s cancer, it deeply touches the lives of all who come into contact with it in ways that are unbelievably profound. It moves all who get involved: children, families, and college students alike.
Although the support that Camp Kesem gives is provided year-round, the primary means of supporting our population is through our free and fun week of summer camp. Our camp is open to children ages six to eighteen, and it is truly meant to just be a time for these kids to let lose and be themselves. There are four chapters of Camp Kesem in North Carolina, the most recent addition being Camp Kesem at UNC-Greensboro, which was founded in 2016. Camp Kesem at UNC-Greensboro held its first session of camp in August 2018 and served 32 campers, thanks to the help of 25 student volunteers, two Camp Advisors from Camp Kesem Nationals, two volunteer nurses, and a volunteer mental health professional.
In order to get our 32 campers to camp, a team of students at UNC-Greensboro worked tirelessly all year to fundraise for, plan, staff, and execute camp. On top of being a nonprofit, Camp Kesem functions as a student group, the executive board of which is assigned various camp-oriented jobs to make sure that camp happens. Students take care of everything from finding camper families in our community to planning fundraisers, from creating the schedule for camp to recruiting volunteers from our university to volunteer as counselors.
We play traditional summer camp games, sing songs, and bond over shared experiences. These shared experiences often go unspoken for most of the week of camp until Empowerment—a time in which our campers are given the space they need to talk about “why they Kesem.” We build a community at camp and come together to play and share our lives, even if just for a week each year.
This year’s camp session will be held during the week of Aug. 11-16, 2019, and will support 45 campers from the Triad, reaching into Charlotte and WNC. In order to make camp happen, student volunteers from UNC-Greensboro are currently in the process of fundraising $45,000.
Camper applications for this summer are now open, and we have various events throughout the year that we are so excited to share with the Greensboro community such as our first annual Make the Magic gala on April 5, 2019!
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