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A Shoulder to Cry On

Camp Kesem is a camp for children whose parents have been affected by cancer. We know this long before each camper arrives at our gate. We know this every day when our campers are laughing hysterically and smiling non-stop. We know this as the week passes and we meet some of the sweetest and most caring kids in the world. It’s not until our Empowerment Ceremony on the fourth night of camp that we all sit in a big circle, surrounded by luminaries, and are given the opportunity to share our stories with everyone. One by one hands slowly go up and as each person speaks it gives ten more the courage to do the same. It’s an emotional time for both campers and staff, but we realize it’s all worth it when tears that fall are quickly met by a hug from a friend or a hand to hold. We realize our stories are all similar, with fear and loneliness being the repetitive theme. However, now we are not alone because our Camp Kesem family will always be there. A quote by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon who fought pancreatic cancer said, “Brick walls are put in our life for a reason. They show us how badly we want something.” Cancer is that brick wall in our lives, keeping us from getting to the other side, from living without worry and fear. It also shows us that, more than anything, we want to overcome this adversity in our life. Now, each camper knows they will never have to do it alone. Camp Kesem is and will always be that hand reaching out from the top, helping us until we are standing looking down over our brick walls.

It’s hard to talk about all the other activities that occurred before and after Empowerment when it was such a powerful part of the day, but I can assure you fun was running rampant. The morning began with a low ropes course, encouraging teamwork and critical thinking, necessary skills in defeating the evil Lord Lightning. We hurried to arts and crafts to make a coat of arms before heading into battle. As we marched towards the gym, Lord Lightning awaited our arrival in his castle of cardboard boxes. Campers took turns throwing tennis balls, kickballs and even large bouncy fireballs all in an effort to knock down Lord Lightning’s fortress. By the end it was clear, the evil Lord Lightning had been defeated. Not a box was left standing.

Lunch was followed by rotations between the pool, lake and the rock-climbing wall where campers overcame their fears and reached the top. Empowerment began as the sun started to sink over the ridge of mountains in the distance, casting a halo-like glow across the room. By at it’s close the stars twinkled in the clear blue sky and our glow-stick dance party was ready to begin. Campers danced and played like there was no tomorrow, again showing their strength and resilience in the face of such a terrible disease.

One more full day remains here in the kingdom of Camp Kesemalot and already campers can’t wait to come back next year, to spend a magical week with their Camp Kesem family.