MU students provide support for kids at Camp Kesem

Camp+Kesem+takes+place+one+week+in+June.+

Photo by Courtesy of Bella Rosa Productions

Camp Kesem takes place one week in June.

Camp Kesem is a week-long summer camp for children who have been affected by a parent’s cancer and supports the children through and beyond their experiences. The costs of the camp are completely free for the children and the money is raised throughout the year.

Kesem means magic in Hebrew, and it is used as an umbrella for all of the magic the organization creates for everyone involved or touched by it.

The support doesn’t just stop after the summer camp but lasts throughout the year. Camp Kesem has Zoom calls, cabin chats and other events for the counselors to offer their continued support to the children. They also send birthday cards and gift baskets for important events such as diagnosis days, anniversaries and the day a parent passed.

The camp counselors work alongside nurses and mental health professionals to give the children the best support possible.

Gottinger got involved with Camp Kesem because he said he felt like he could relate to the children on some level due to having a sister with a disability.

“I know what it’s like for someone to deal with a lot of adversity in their life and I really like spending time with those kinds of kids. All these kids at camp have been through so much in their life, and I figured it’s the least I can do to help them out a little bit and give them a good week,” Joseph Gottinger, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, said.

For Gottinger, his favorite part at camp he said was the empowerment session. During empowerment, everyone talks about why they come to Kesem.“Why we Kesem,” is one of the conversations that the counselors and children have at camp.

Although empowerment sessions are very emotional, he said it is inspiring to see the children come out of their shells.

“They all [the six to eight-year-olds] shared their stories about why they were there,” Gottinger said. “Although it’s really sad, it was probably my favorite part of camp just to see them all like that, see them all connecting with each other.”

Camp Kesem has chapters on college campuses. After watching her brother get involved with Camp Kesem, Emma Brown, a junior in the College of Nursing, said she made it a requirement for any college she applied to.

“Once you meet the kids, you are hooked for life because they will change your lives in ways that no one will ever be able to impact your life. They just make such a huge difference in making you see things that you wouldn’t have seen and understanding points of view that you may never have to understand in your life,” Brown said.

Brown said she is taken aback by the strength of the children. Brown said during empowerment, a lot of the counselors realized that they are doing this for the kids.

“You Kesem because you want to give them a place that feels like home to them, you want to give them in place that can be an escape for them,” Brown said. “A place where they can talk about things that they may be too scared to talk about at home and with their families.

Brown said even if the counselors don’t fully understand what the children are going through, they can be there for them and be the person they need at the moment.

As a child, Miranda Dooley, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she went to a different summer camp herself. When she began working for summer camps, she realized that they are not always accessible.

“Knowing that coming to Kesem I was going to be able to provide this opportunity for these kids to connect through things like difficult home situations and giving them access to that same life-changing experience that I had was a big part of the reason ‘why I Kesem,’” Dooley said.

This story was written by Hannah Hernandez. She can be reached at [email protected]