SOUTH BEND — The Notre Dame chapter of Camp Kesem will host the weeklong summer camp for the 10th consecutive summer this August.Camp Kesem, like many other summer camps, offers activities for children such as sports time, nature, team building, and arts and crafts but unlike other camps they focus on the child whose parent has or had cancer.The mission of Camp Kesem is “To provide children affected by a parent’s cancer with a supportive, lifelong camp community that recognizes and understands their unique needs,” according to their website.Notre Dame sophomore Cody Ferrantino is a co-chair of Camp Kesem.“Personally I found out about Camp Kesem while in high school. I had a cousin who attended as a camper right after my uncle passed away. When I found out about Camp Kesem at Notre Dame I signed up as soon as I could,” Ferrantino said.“Most of our counselors have a cancer connection. We feel it’s equally rewarding as a counselor as it is for campers,” said Ferrantino.
Camp Kesem was founded in 2001 at Stanford University.
The group chose the word Kesem, which means “magic” in Hebrew, because its goal was to bring magic to families coping with cancer.
Notre Dame began their chapter two summers later. They were the third chapter to form out of a total of 40 chapters nationally serving more than 2,100 children.
All of the counselors are college students and work on a volunteer basis.
“Everything we do at Camp Kesem focuses on our goal of giving campers the most fun-filled week possible, while providing the extra support and attention they need,” said Ferrantino.
“Kids get to pick their own nicknames so it’s really a week for them to be who they want to be. They get away from the family responsibility and have fun,” he said.
Recently Camp Kesem was recognized by the Livestrong foundation for the second time as a community impact partner.
“This tremendous news means that Camp Kesem will be growing again: adding 12 college chapters in the next year, bringing Kesem magic to many more of the 3 million children affected by a parent’s cancer,” according to the website.
Counselors are required to go through first aid training and CPR certification. They also complete online counselor training March-August.
“We have a certified nurse and psychologist too,” said Ferrantino.
“Last year two boys were recently dealing with issues when each lost a parent within one month of going to camp,” he said.
“There are plenty of laughs and lots of emotional support, but Camp Kesem does not provide therapy. The tremendous fun and support campers experience is what makes Camp Kesem a transformative, magical week for campers and counselors alike,” according to the website.
“We have an empowerment ceremony later in the week where we talk about why we’re all here and what brought us here,” said Ferrantino.
“Camp Kesem is for children ages 6 through 16 with the 6- through 12-year-olds in the normal camp and the 13- through 16-year-olds in the teen camp,” Ferrrantino said.
“The Camp Kesem teen focuses on more outdoor activities and less structure; more arts and crafts time and swimming, with counselors specific to the teen camp,” he said.
Last year the Notre Dame chapter hosted 40 campers. This year their goal is 60.
“We’re advertising with hospitals, school counselors and Ryan’s place,” said Ferrantino.
“We rely on donations and fundraising on campus and in the community. We’re having a silent and live auction, raffle and dinner Feb. 8 called Make the Magic,” he said.
‘Make the Magic 2013’
What: Dinner and silent auction to benefit Camp Kesem Notre Dame
When: from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 8
Where: Gillepsie Conference Center (attached to Inn at Saint Mary’s), South Bend
Tickets: $60 per person, register online at campkesemnd.kintera.org/makethemagic or send a check to Camp Kesem Notre Dame, P.O.Box 241, Notre Dame, IN 46556
For more information, contact the event coordinator Jodie Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.