We’re Camp Kesem, we have fun, laughing, playing in the sun. Camp Kesem’s the place to be, we’ve got Magic 1, 2, 3!
When I was a counselor for Camp Kesem USC, I might’ve chanted this song 3 dozen times over the course of a week. But it never got old. Every time we sang the chant, the campers and counselors were all reminded of how special the Kesem family is, and singing it together made us all experience the strong feelings of community Kesem provides.
The community is unique because Kesem is a cost-free camp for children ages 8-16 who have guardian that has been diagnosed with cancer. These youngsters have gone through so much, and Kesem gives these children an opportunity to get their minds off of all the negativity currently happening in their lives. Kesem shows them that they aren’t alone and there are other kids who can relate to what they’re going through.
Meeting the kids on the bus ride to the camp site at big bear was a hilarious experience. At Kesem we use camp names instead of our real names. My camp name was “Stinky” because my teammates in high school would always give me grief for smelling bad after football games. Some campers chose names like Bounty Hunter, Unicorn, Sunshine, and my personal favorite, Babe. When I asked this 11-year-old why he chose “Babe” for his camp name, he replied, “So all the girls have to call me Babe.” As you can see, these kids are not short of personality!
I was a counselor for the 10-11 year olds, which was both challenging and rewarding. The biggest challenge with them was figuring out how to get them to stop picking up sticks to use as lightsabers. When we weren’t trying to keep them away from the sticks, we were participating on one of the various activities we put on for the campers. Activities included mountain biking, learning about indigenous people/nature, arts and crafts, traversing a ropes course, and hiking up to a lake in the mountains.
One moment that really left an impact on me was when we were completing the ropes course. One of my campers, Dragon, was having difficulty with one particular obstacle. The goal was to walk across a single rope while your partner across from you walked across another rope. You had to push against each other to get some leverage so that you don’t fall. He was extremely self-conscious, and after failing the obstacle a few times, he began to cry and gave up. Before I knew what was going on, the rest of the 25 campers participating in the ropes course reacted.
“Dragon! Dragon! Dragon!” Dragon suddenly stopped crying. The kids cheering him on had given him the confidence to try one last time. Step by step by step, he slowly creeped down the rope. The rest of the campers never stopped cheering his name. And wouldn’t you know, he ended up crossing the end. When he stepped down from the rope he was swarmed by all the campers. Seeing his huge smile is an image I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
When I signed up for Kesem, I was never expecting it to leave such an impact on me. Over the course of the week, I made some great friends and I couldn’t be happier I decided to become a part of this organization. Camp Kesem is more than a summer camp-it’s a family.