The Funsize Blog

Camp Kesem Michigan Spring Reunion Recap

It was so great seeing everyone who came out for our Spring Reunion and Family Info Session at our home-base in Fenton this past Sunday! The day started out with a rousing game of elbow tag in the Camp Copneconic Lodge (where Ducky got her workout in)! Campers then got to enjoy three of Camp Copneconic’s awesome activities – Gaga, Archery, and the Reptile House! Campers and counselors old and new had a great time catching up, dodging balls, shooting arrows, and checking out some cool creatures on our favorite campgrounds! The Camp’s new health and wellness center has been finished and looks great too! We are very thankful for the partnership we have created with the staff at Camp Copneconic as it has allowed us to get a taste of camp before the summer, and enjoy a reunion with our campers at the scene of the magic! Parents- if you couldn’t make it and/or missed any info, don’t worry! Visit our website, view a sample schedule for a day at camp here, or email any questions or concerns to michigan.outreach@campkesem.org. For those of you who did make it, we hope you had as much fun as we did, and we can’t wait to reunite with even more of our CK family soon!

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Veritas Prep Camp Kesem Fundraiser

Are you applying to graduate business programs? Do you want top quality preparation for the GMAT? Would you like to spread magic to families affected by cancer at the same time? If your answer is yes to those three questions, consider participating in the Veritas Prep Camp Kesem Fundraiser. Veritas Prep offers GMAT preparation through online and in person courses with their top notch instructors and proven material success. By registering for Veritas Prep GMAT classes, half of your registration fee will go towards providing a free week of camp for children with a parent affected by cancer.

For more information on the Veritas Prep Camp Kesem fundraiser and types of classes offered, please contact Dana Granadier at Michigan.Operations@campkesem.org

Camp Kesem Advisors

Interested in helping Camp Kesem Berkeley improve and grow?

We are always looking for local professionals to be our advisors to help guide us in making Camp Kesem Berkeley better each year. Being an advisor involves coming to an advisory board meeting twice a year where our coordinator team can ask questions related to their position, for example about fundraising or marketing strategies.

If you are interested please contact our Operations Coordinators at berkeley.operations@campkesem.org.

Camp Kesem 2014 Camper Applications!

Our application is open to the public! We are a first come, first serve camp so get signed up as soon as possible! We are looking forward to seeing old faces and meeting new campers in July! If you have any questions about the application or Camp Kesem ASU please contact asu@campkesem.org

Camp Kesem CEO Jane Saccaro Reflects on #GivingTuesday with Huffington Post

Jane “Pocket” Saccaro joined Camp Kesem as the Chief Executive Office in December 2010. Jane earned both a M.S. in Engineering-Economic Systems and a B.A. in Economics and Psychology from Stanford University. 

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Before taking on the role of Camp Kesem’s Chief Executive Officer, I spent 15 years working for corporations. And while I loved my work, I felt compelled to find a role with a larger social mission and impact that would truly make a difference. During my search, I learned about Camp Kesem, a unique organization that not only served an often-overlooked population — children affected by a parent’s cancer — but empowered college students to make a difference. As a mother, I was drawn to the mission. And as someone who has always valued leadership opportunities for young adults, I loved the method of how Camp Kesem achieved such great impact. I was hooked.

Seven weeks after I became Camp Kesem’s new CEO, my younger sister Susan was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer. She was just 35 years old, and her three young children — Teddy, then three, and 10-month-old twins Benji and Caroline — suddenly became Camp Kesem kids, and our organization’s mission really hit home. As I watched Susan fight her battle with this brutal disease, I gained an appreciation of why Camp Kesem’s work was so important. As a parent, all you want to do is protect, love and be there for your kids. And when you cannot do that, it is beyond powerless. As hard as Susan fought to be there for her kids, she did not win this battle and died just 11 weeks after her diagnosis. I still struggle with losing my best friend and confidante every day. So I do the only thing I know how to do. I honor Susan’s legacy by doing everything I can to bring support, comfort and love not only to her three children, but to the three million children who have or have had a parent with cancer.

And that is why today I feel so incredibly proud of this model we champion. Our incredible student leaders — our Big Kids — truly make a difference and build invaluable leadership skills by developing and managing every aspect of their Camp Kesem chapter. This year, for #GivingTuesday, we asked our student volunteers to take their social responsibility one step further. We asked them to encourage their fellow students, peers, faculty and members of their campus communities to also GIVE BACK by taking a photo in one of the 45 #BigKidsGive #GivingTuesday photo booths our student leaders set up on their campuses nationwide and then sharing that photo via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to spread that message even further. And it was a tremendous success!

Camp Kesem’s Big Kids took over Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with over 1,300 photos using the #BigKidsGive and #GivingTuesday hashtags. With the help of our student volunteers, celebrity supporters, and community leaders, our #GivingTuesday campaign helped raised approximately $10,000 in donations to send more kids to camp this summer. We are incredibly proud and applaud all of the young leaders in the world that have helped make #GivingTuesday a success not only for our organization, but for the thousands of others who are working towards improving the world we live in.

So much of the messaging we see at this time of year is about getting — gifts, presents, discounts and all manner of things. Yet in participating in Camp Kesem’s #BigKidsGive #GivingTuesday campaign, as well as #GivingTuesday’s #Unselfie campaign, college students all over the country have demonstrated the importance of GIVING BACK and thinking beyond ourselves. Furthermore, they have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate the true power of social media to bring attention to important causes and inspire collaborative action.

Today, there are over three million children affected by a parent’s cancer. Our goal is to continue to expand our programs until we can serve every one of those kids. This year, Camp Kesem expanded to 54 college chapters across the country, increasing the number of communities we serve by over 32 percent. With the help of nearly 1,500 college student volunteers, we served more than 2,800 children. And while our student leaders are giving back, they are developing real-world skills. 89 percent of Kesem students intend to continue philanthropic work after college. Our Big Kids embody what Camp Kesem is all about. Over 75 percent of the student leaders involved with Camp Kesem had cancer impact someone in their family, and by sharing their personal experiences, they are able to help kids like them in a profoundly unique way.

Camp Kesem was honored to be a #GivingTuesday partner this year and will continue being one for many years to come.

Why the Yus Support #GivingTuesday

For our last installment of our #GivingTuesday blog, we’ve asked one of our dear families, the Yus, from Los Angeles, CA to share why they support #GivingTuesday this year. The Yus have attended Camp Kesem at UCLA since 2005. Elena aka 1:07 is now a counselor at Camp Kesem at UCLA and Dara aka Bamboo is excited for yet another summer at camp! 

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My husband George was diagnosed in 2004 with a non-smoker’s lung cancer, Bronchio-Alveolar Carcinoma.  My daughters at the time were only three and nine years old. I was at such a loss as to how to support the girls and their understanding of cancer, as I was at a loss of understanding how to live each day with knowing he was dying.  He’d been given only 6-12 months to live.  I was struggling trying to search the internet for the best cures, doctors, and treatments.  Unfortunately, my daughters weren’t getting the support they greatly needed to understand what was happening to our family. Then, through the Simms Mann UCLA cancer therapy center, I was directed to Camp Kesem UCLA. It has truly been the best thing to come out of this tragedy we had to live through.

My older daughter, Elena (1:07 at camp) started attending the UCLA camp the first year it was offered in 2005.  She was extremely shy and the first year she attended, she only listened at cabin chat.  Most of the kids in her cabin had moms with breast cancer, so she didn’t feel comfortable talking about her dad.  But, over the next few years, she came to understand that she was in an extremely understanding, and loving community family, and started to speak more at cabin chat.  Over the years, Camp Kesem has given Elena the opportunity to contribute in many ways.  The summer after junior year of high school, Elena and another CK camper, Nicole spent hours meeting with counselors, talking to other camp kids, and working with Camp Kesem National to form a CIT program.  The program was rolled out the next summer, and Elena was able to continue with Camp Kesem.  After graduating from high school, Elena was accepted to UCLA where she is now a Camp Kesem counselor, and can give back to all the kids who are going through the same experience she had.

When George passed away in 2007, Dara (Bamboo at camp) was six, and Elena was thirteen.  They were actually on the way back from camp, when the hospice nurse told me that I couldn’t leave the house to pick them up. After a quick call, two Camp Kesem counselors dropped them back to the house, and were there to support the girls and our family when George died only fifteen minutes after the girls got home. We had a very large memorial a month later with over 600 participants.  But some of the most beloved attendees were the sixteen Camp Kesem counselors who came to support our family. It really was so amazing when I saw them walking up the ramp to join us.  They had put together special photo collages for the girls with pictures from camp.  Dara still has hers in her room on the shelf of special mementos.

Over the years, I’ve been extremely impressed that, in addition to helping kids and their families, the camp trains student leaders in marketing, fundraising, and development. They are given extensive training in how to deal with these very different and special situations that the young children are experiencing at home.  As the girls have grown, the counselors have made strong impressions on them in many ways.  We have known counselors through camp who have become inspirational in other parts of my daughter’s lives.  They have provided friendship, babysitters, cooking partners, inspiration through dance, and support at special events.  Camp Kesem counselors have been involved with every part of my daughters’ lives after their father passed away.  They are not just friends, they are family.

Elena and Dara absolutely love this camp, they look forward to it as the highlight of their year. It is rare that kids at their schools can truly understand what they’ve lived through with their dad: chemo, radiation, pain medications, and ultimately, death. At Camp Kesem, they admit, they feel comfortable with everyone, they are no longer the “odd man out.”

It is a charity that we feel so strongly about because they truly understand the impact that cancer has on families.  We have built a community family, and hope that the other three million children in the US that have a parent with cancer will soon be able to find the joy that Camp Kesem has brought to our family.

We hope you’ll support Camp Kesem on this upcoming #GivingTuesday and #BigKidsGive event.  You’ll find my youngest daughter, Dara on facebook/DaraTheBowGirl with her friends giving their support.

College Night at the Container Store Benefitting Camp Kesem

Tuesday, July 30 2013
Century City, CA

Family Night at the Museum 2014!

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Family Night at the Museum 2014!

Save the date for Camp Kesem’s Family Night at the Museum 2014! This event will be held at the Field Museum in Chicago on Saturday, March 8 from 6-9 pm. For more information, please visit http://familynightatthemuseum.org/info-tickets/

Why Donie Supports #GivingTuesday

 

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Ashley “Donie” Harris

Alumni, Camp Kesem at UCLA

Ashley Harris is a Camp Kesem Alumni. During her time at UCLA, Ashley served as a counselor and a program coordinator. Ashley currently works at a digital marketing agency in Los Angeles, CA where she wishes she could incorporate her past Arts & Crafts Rotation Counselor skills more into her daily life. 

Freshly back from my first winter break at UCLA, I was perched in the first row of a new classroom. An eager transfer student, I made it a point to sit at the front of the class and raise my hand a lot. On the mostly empty chalkboard in front of me, there was a small message in the top right hand corner: Help kids whose parents have/had cancer. Become a counselor at Camp Kesem!

My interest was piqued. Not many of my new college friends knew this, but I was one of those kids. Less than a year before, my mom had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

Technically, I wasn’t a kid when my family went through this. I was 19 years old, living at home and attending community college with the intention to transfer to UCLA. It was a weird and difficult time for the whole family. My dad and I kept our selves busy with work, school, activities, and friends. I spent a lot of time with my boyfriend. In retrospect, I realize how scared I was and that my means of coping was to flee from our fragile household.

My mom had a variety of emotional states, some of which she shared. At times she had complete confidence that she would be fine, and other times there was hopelessness about the situation. Worst of all, sometimes she just wanted out.

My little brother was 12 at the time, old enough to understand what was going on and old enough to be worried. We had always been very close, but I don’t remember us talking much about the cancer or the possible outcomes of my mom’s mastectomy. I had always been his guide and companion, but I didn’t have the strength or the knowledge to support him then. Each of us was our own little island of fear and anxiety, surrounded by the sea of cancer.

Our family was lucky. My mom had a successful surgery that eliminated her cancer. She did not have to go through chemotherapy, and she is cancer free today. A few months after her surgery, I left to attend my dream school, UCLA. My mom was fine, but cancer left my family with a lot of healing to do.

Back to that fateful classroom, I took down the date and time of the Camp Kesem informational meeting and the rest is history. I became a counselor, started hanging out with my fellow Kesem people in preparation for camp, and by the time we traveled to the Santa Barbara mountains I had a whole new group of friends.

A couple weeks before camp, I got a call from one of the head counselors. They knew I had a brother, and I had shared with the group that I had a parent that had gone through cancer. They asked if my brother might be interested in attending the newly formed ‘teen camp’ within Camp Kesem UCLA.  This was the best idea I’d ever heard.

It was hard to leave my little brother to go away to school, especially after the trauma of my mom’s cancer. Camp Kesem gave us a special opportunity to spend time together in a magic environment. As a now 13 year old, he got to hang out with and get to know my new college friends. We got to play around, be silly, and be ourselves together like we did as kids. We got the unique opportunity to heal together, and it didn’t cost my parents a dime.

Camp Kesem provides an annual week of healing for kids (and college kids) across the United States. Cancer is a common experience, but painful and life altering nonetheless. Camp Kesem gives kids a chance to be carefree and have fun with a group of peers and counselors that ‘get it’. As a counselor, I was able to heal myself by helping others. I’m forever grateful to the organization for that opportunity. That’s why I will be supporting Camp Kesem on Giving Tuesday! Hopefully my donation can help other siblings come together to heal and enjoy a week at camp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Goofy Supports #GivingTuesday

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Marty “Goofy” Shamon

Summit Intern, Camp Kesem

Marty Shamon is Camp Kesem’s Summit Intern, where he acts as one of the lead roles in planning the Camp Kesem National Leadership  Summit, which hosts the coordinators from every Camp Kesem chapter across the country. During his time at the University of Illinois, Marty served as a counselor and co-director, and since graduating has served as a Senior Camp Advisor and now as the Summit Intern.

Cancer does not discriminate. Cancer chooses no religion, gender, belief, age, or color. Cancer feels no compassion. Cancer saddens, hurts, angers, kills, and cancer terrorizes. Cancer changes our lives. Cancer affects us all.

I have lost a parent to cancer. I lost my father on January 25th, 2002 when I was only 10 years old and not ready to lose the one male figure, role model, and father in my life. Cancer changed me from the moment it attacked my father; it took my childhood and it took control of my life.

Everyone knows cancer is a terrible thing; everyone knows that it hurts not just the person with it, but also the ones they love. What everyone might not know is when someone in your family has cancer, it is not something that sits silently in the background. It is not something you just deal with. No, it is something that makes itself known every moment of every day for that family. It takes over your life.

I can hardly remember the amazing memories I had with my father, not because I don’t cherish them with every ounce of my being, but because of the darkness that cancer casts over those memories. What I do remember is when my father went from a full head of hair to nothing, when my mom and older sister would try to hide their hurt and fears from me because I was still a kid, when I would go to his appointments to get his prosthetic leg sized and changed every so often, when I would go with him to physical therapy so he could learn how to walk with the one real leg he had left, when he would tell me his leg was in pain but yet that leg was no longer there and he was just feeling “phantom pains,” when I would fill up a syringe from a vial of his medication and tap out the air bubbles so that I could inject him where I had washed his skin with alcohol pads, when we left the store and he couldn’t remember how to get back home a few blocks away, when my parents would be in the hospital for weeks and my sister and I would stay by our cousins because we still had to go to school even though our father was quickly being taken from us, when I would cry at night praying to God that he wouldn’t take my father from me, and when I felt the absolute devastating heartbreak of walking through those hospital room doors and seeing my entire family in endless tears because that one man that I loved, that I looked up to, that I would give anything up for had passed away moments before I could just say, “I Love You.”

I was 10 years old, and those were the memories that were going to linger around forever. Those are the moments that you live with every day when cancer has affected your family.

During my freshman year at the University of Illinois, I read an email from my advisor about organizations that had general meetings that week. That was where I first read about and was quickly drawn to Camp Kesem’s mission: “To provide children affected by a parent’s cancer with a supportive, lifelong camp community that recognizes and understands their unique needs.” I joined Camp Kesem that week and four years ago at my first week of camp, I told my story for the first time and it changed my life. I looked around the room during our Empowerment Ceremony, where campers and counselors can safely share their stories if they choose to, and I saw a family. Camp Kesem gave me a family that understood what I went through as a child, and was still struggling with as an adult. I could finally open up and know that I was not alone. I owe my life to that day, and I owe my life to Camp Kesem; Camp Kesem brought back what I had lost to my father’s cancer.

Since then, I have held 6 different positions within the organization while trying to make the Magic of Camp Kesem possible for the millions of children just like me. It is a part of my life that I am most proud of and driven by. Camp Kesem gives these invisible victims of cancer a community and a family that understands what they are going through, and it gives them a week where they can stop worrying and just be kids.

I will continue to work to make Camp Kesem possible for all the families that we haven’t reached so far, and in the process will remember a few simple words from our fearless leader and CEO, Jane Saccaro: “No child should have to face cancer. Camp Kesem is here to ensure they never have to face it alone.” This is my Kesem story, and this is why I support Camp Kesem this Giving Tuesday.