The following is a story from a former Camp Kesem camper. Camp Kesem is a university-based summer camp program. College students fundraise and host the camps, free of charge for children with a parent who has, or has had cancer. Camp Kesem is one of the four model programs available for replication in the 2011 Community Impact Project. College groups, apply today to have a Camp Kesem in your community!
I was five years old when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. For the next 5 years of my life I watched as she fought valiantly and bravely always being there for me. She passed away, on her birthday, on 3/24/02, I had just turned 11 on 3/5/02. Being adopted as well I had only ever known love from both my parents and to lose someone that took me in and raised me as her own had a profound effect on me. I struggled in school in 5th and 6th grade, this was when I was thrown a lifeline. Camp Kesem at Stanford University in my hometown of Palo Alto, CA opened its doors to me the summer between my 6th and 7th grade. It was their second year of the camp, and it changed my life. Having other kids who had gone through the same, or very similar, experience that I had and being able to talk to them gave me a renewed sense of hope and optimism for my life. Having the opportunity to share with people who could understand and not be scared off by a little boy with no mother meant the world to me; and the counselors whom had not had a loss still remain close to my heart to this day.
I remember the first day of camp, everyone somewhat scared and worried that this was just a ‘feel sorry’ camp and we would have no fun. We were dead wrong. Camp Kesem isn’t just about sharing your experiences and making lifetime friends but being able to be a kid again, even for just a week. Having the ability to go to a camp and just do normal camp activities also got my mind off the fact that I was different in the outside world, here I was just another kid who wanted to be happy. I could go on and on about experiences I had, literally every day I made a new one. I ended up going to the camp until I was 17, I just got too old to go! Even after all the years of camp I hadn’t had my fill, I started volunteering at the camp on Stanford Campus, even though the camp was held in the mountain camps I participated in all the events I could, even loading up the buses for other kids so they could enjoy their first time at camp. I ended up winning, thanks in large part to a submission from camp staff, the Kids Who Care Award 2007 in Northern California for my volunteer work. Now I am in the position at the University of Colorado at Boulder to give back to the community and spread the joy that I was privileged to get as a child. Please, give me this opportunity to change kid’s lives for the better, just like mine was.
Brian a Sophomore at The University of Colorado at Boulder