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April 2015 Camper Spotlight –

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 6.17.48 PMHappy April, Kesemers! We’re less than two months away from our first Camp Kesem session of 2015! As we get closer to the most magical time of the year, we’re so excited to spotlight a special camper from Camp Kesem UCSD, Thin Mint!

CK: What is your real name, camper name, and age? How did you get your camp name?

I’m Zoe Antonoff.  My camper name is Thin Mint and I’m 13 1/2 years old. I got my camp name because I sold A LOT of Girl Scout cookies (over 2015 boxes) and Thin Mints are my favorite.

CK: How did you hear about Camp Kesem and why did you decide to attend?

My friend Isabella told me about it because she went there and I thought it would be fun.

CK: How many years have you attended Camp Kesem? If more than one, what keeps you coming back?

Four years.  I keep coming back because it is REALLY fun and I love all the counselors and how nice they are.  I like how they are really open.  I like how you can be yourself and how the camp is very unique and fun.

CK: What is special about Camp Kesem in your eyes?

The counselors understand you and everyone is open and really nice and I love their encouragement and willingness to be supportive with what is going on in everyone’s lives.

CK: Describe a friend you made at Camp Kesem.

They are really nice, sweet and funny and can relate to me.

CK: What are some of your favorite activities at CK UCSD? Favorite memories?

We had a Jello fight, mud pit, obstacle ropes course, talent shows, festival, hanging out with friends and counselors. Doing the 5K and the Slip and Slide.

CK: What would you like to be when you grow up?

I am not sure yet.

CK: What are some of your favorite activities at home? Sports or clubs?

Softball, lacrosse, field hockey, art, reading listening to music and watching T.V./ video games and Girl Scouts.

CK: Who would you describe as a hero in your life?

My parents.

CK: What would you tell a potential camper about Camp Kesem?

You will have fun and participate because you would get a lot more out of it and don’t forget that you will love it in general.


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March 2015 Camper Spotlight –

March 2015 camper spotlight

As we near the final weeks of winter and await sunnier skies and warmer afternoons, we’re so excited to spotlight a wonderful camper from Camp Kesem at the University of Missouri! Rory, also known as Olive at CK Mizzou, is a nine year-old returning camper with a heart of gold. Her favorite part of Camp Kesem are the friendships and memories made, which she describes as experiences that have helped make her a better person.

CK: How did you hear about Camp Kesem and why did you decide to attend?

Olive: I heard about Camp Kesem from my mom and she had heard about it from one of her friends. I decided to attend because it sounded like an escape from reality and a place where I could just be myself.

CK: How many years have you attended Camp Kesem? If more than one, what keeps you coming back?

Olive: This August is my second time going to Camp Kesem. I am going again because last time was the time of my life. And I want to keep in touch with my CK friends.

CK: What is special about Camp Kesem in your eyes?

Olive: Camp Kesem is special to me because it is an escape from reality and worries and things you just wish would disappear. You get a full week of just fun and games and friend making, and it’s fun for everyone around! You can’t put it into words. It’s just amazing.

CK: Describe a friend you made at Camp Kesem.

Olive: One of my friends that I made at CK was Bean. She was amazing, great, fun, spunky, and creative and I think she and all of my other friends brought out the best in me. The only thing that I want to do right now is thank them. Some of my other friends were Sunshine, Chipmunk, What, Faith, Fox, Minnow, Blue, Sasquatch, Cali, Toast, Squeak, and so many others! The same thing goes for them too. Thank you all so much!

CK: What are some of your favorite activities at CK Mizzou? Favorite memories?

Olive: Some of my favorite activities at CK were swimming and drama. I have a few great memories. One is when we were all hanging out in our cabin waiting for the nightly get together to start. The last few days I had been banging my head a lot because I had the bottom bunk.  That night while we were waiting I was going to sit down on my bunk and I had taped paper streamers like a curtain on my bunk and I BANGED my head REALLY HARD on the bunk, like so hard that there were tears. And right then everyone else from the Blue group just HAD to come in, so I was embarrassed and in pain. Yippie. But then Bean came in and she came over to sit on my bunk to ask if I was okay. On her way to a sitting position, she accidentely hit her eye REALLY HARD on my bunk. We were just sitting there looking at each other just in so much pain, just looking at each other and crying, now that I look back on it, I’m laughing because I realize how awkward that must have looked to everyone else that was in the room. That was one of my favorite memories at CK.

CK: What would you like to be when you grow up?

Olive: I would like to be either a singer or a vet when I grow up.

CK: What are some of your favorite activities at home? Sports or clubs?

Olive: I do piano and I like to run and do sports, basically anything active. I also like acting in plays and just acting in general.

CK: Who would you describe as a hero in your life?

Olive: I would describe my Mom as a hero in my life because she inspired me to do the right thing and taught me to stand out in a crowd, in other words, to not be like everyone else. She is partly- hey my dad needs some credit too- responsible for who I am today. She was just so happy and she spread her happiness with everyone else. So I will end this question with a quote: “I’m not telling you it is going to be easy, I’m saying it’s going to be worth it.” My Mom’s cancer wasn’t easy, but it made her stronger.

CK: What would you tell a potential camper about Camp Kesem?

Olive: CK is an amazing camp and you will love it. It just takes the pressure right off your shoulders, almost like magic! And the counselors are really nice, they really care about you. YOU get hugs for welcomes and they always think about you before themselves. There are not words for how awesome CK is.

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February 2015 Camper Spotlight –

Feb. 2015 Camper Spotlight-SporkHappy February, Kesemers! As we near the end of winter and look forward to the spring season, we’re so excited to spotlight a special camper from Camp Kesem at College of William & Mary, Spork! She’s a returning camper that values the support found with friends in our special cabin chats and Empowerment ceremony at CK, a place she describes as truly magical.

CK: What is your camper name and age?

Spork: Amber Curtis, Spork, 15

CK: How long have you been attending Camp Kesem and how did you hear about?

Spork: A year; my older sister found out about it, and told me I was going.

CK: What were some of your favorite activities at Camp Kesem and why?  

Spork: I love all of the experiences at CK, but I loved the Empowerment Ceremony.

CK: What did you learn from your experience at Camp Kesem?

Spork: I learned that there are others like me; that I’m not alone. I learned I have my own support system.

CK: Do you have a favorite memory or funny story from camp?

Spork: I loved the cabin chats every night; everyone was so willing and so open. We all were so comfortable. Having Shabba in our unit, every minute was a funny one.

CK: What is your favorite subject in school?

Spork: Social Science

CK: When you’re not at Camp, what are some of your favorite activities or sports to participate in at home?

Spork: I play softball and volleyball.

CK: If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

Spork: Mind-reading so I can understand everyone.

CK: Who is a personal hero for you?

Spork: My mom is my personal hero. Even now, looking at everything she had to go through throughout her life, on her own…She’s the strongest woman I know. I admire how she would look at situations and take them head-on.

CK: If you could describe Camp Kesem in one word, what would it be?

Spork: it is indeed – Magic.

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January 2015 Camper Spotlight –

Happy New Year, everyone! As we welcome in 2015, a year full of promise and new beginnings, we’re so excited to spotlight a very special camper. Froggy, from Camp Kesem Indiana, has attended camp for a record 10 years and will transition to CIT (counselor-in-training) this year. But it’s a family affair at CKIU; Froggy’s sister, Kitty, was not only a camper herself, but is now a  chapter Co-Director. Froggy hopes to follow in her sister’s footsteps and help give back to the organization that has given so much to her. This special family is what Camp Kesem’s life-changing magic is all about.

296039_10150344672342746_1495026810_nCK: What is your camp nickname and age?

Froggy:  I’m Froggy, and I’m 16 years old.

CK: How many years have you attended Camp Kesem and how did you hear about camp?

Froggy: I have attended CKIU for 10 years now, my family first heard about it after seeing a flyer in the hospital.

CK: What were some of your favorite activities at camp and why?

Froggy: My favorite activities have been the end of the week dance because everyone is together as a whole camp, and the happiness always echoes throughout the room. And making skits because it gives us an opportunity to play around with counselors and “make-fun” of the weird funny things they do and say.

CK: What is something you learned from your experience at Camp Kesem?

Froggy: I learned that Camp Kesem is my second family that will always be there for me and never ever fails to put a smile on my face. I have met some of my life long friends at camp and have enjoyed every moment i’ve been there.

CK: Has your experience at camp changed or felt differently as you’ve grown older?

Froggy: My experience at Camp Kesem has changed a lot but at the same time not much at all. I started coming to camp as a very shy little girl who wanted nothing to do with camp at all. I left my first year of Camp Kesem a whole new little girl, that one week made me more outgoing than I had ever been and I didn’t want to leave camp after the week was over. When you go through something so hard like having a sick parent at such a young age it’s very hard to understand. As I grew older, camp became more and more import to me. I stopped seeing it as just another summer camp and began realizing how special it was. This camp wasn’t just another camp it was a place to get away from the hospitals and the doctors and constant reminder that your mom or dad was sick and may not get better. It was a time to be surrounded by people who understood and cared. Even after a year of not seeing each other as soon as we got to camp it was like we never left. My relationships with counselors and friends at camp has not changed one bit. But the way I think about camp has changed.

CK: Do you have a favorite memory or funny story from camp?

Froggy: My favorite memory would have to be this past year at camp when all the graduating campers were lead to the field around midnight and we lit lanterns that then floated into the sky, and talked about how much we loved camp and each other.

CK: How do you feel about transitioning from camper to CIT next year?

Froggy: The transition to a CIT is bittersweet to me. I loved being a camper and it will be weird not having as many boundaries and not being able to participate in things like a camper. For me its like a whole chapter of my life has ended and now I’m moving on to a whole new one which is exciting. I want to be someone the younger kids can trust and look up too. My sister Kitty has inspired me to go far with Camp Kesem and I hope to be a counselor all four years of college as well.

CK: What was it like attending camp with your sister, Kitty, as a camper and now that she’s in a leadership role?

Froggy: Attending camp with my sister was a normal thing, I don’t know if I would’ve been willing to go if she hadn’t gone too. The weirdest thing was watching her turn into a counselor while I was still a camper. Im very proud to have a sister so involved in Camp Kesem and be so good at what she does to help make camp happen every year.

CK: What is your favorite subject in school?

Froggy: My favorite school subject is English because i have a good time organizing my opinions in essays and short writings.

CK: What activities/sports do you participate in at home?

Froggy: I am part of the Bloomington Figure Skating Club and I also play Lacrosse for the Bloomington team. Recently I have gotten into aerial silks and hope to continue with that.

CK: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?

Froggy:  If I could have one superpower it would be to create food in my brain and then send it to anyone who wanted/needed it. That way I could always fulfil a craving!

CK: Who is a personal hero for you?

Froggy: A personal hero for me would be my dad. He went through so much pain but never failed to be the strongest man i knew. He supported everything i did and loved me more than anyone in the world.

CK: If you could describe Camp Kesem in one word, what would it be?

Froggy: Life-changing

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December Camper Spotlight – Hunter

Dec Camper SpotlightHappy December! We are so excited for the upcoming holidays and seasonal cheer, and as a gift to our Camp Kesem family; we would love to introduce you to a wonderful Camp Kesem North Carolina camper, Hunter! He loves taekwondo, nerf wars and math, but mostly he’s crazy about camp!

CK: What is your name and age?
Hunter: Hunter Frenzke, 10 years old

CK: How many years have you attended Camp Kesem and do you plan on returning?
Hunter: I have attended camp for 2 years and I would love to do it again.

CK: What makes you want to come back to Camp Kesem for another summer?
Hunter: I would come back so I can be with friends.

CK: What do you like to do with your free time? (Hobbies, sports, favorite school subject?)
Hunter: I like to have nerf wars with my friends and I like to read at home and do taekwondo.

CK: Do you have any cool or unusual talents?
Hunter: Yes I am good at math and help out around the house.

CK: What makes Camp Kesem special to you?
Hunter: It helps me know that there are more people then me who know what it is like to have a parent undergo cancer/treatments.

CK: What is one word you would use to describe Camp Kesem?
Hunter: AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CK: Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Camp?
Hunter: COLOR WARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

CK: What about a favorite camp game or song?
Hunter: Egg hunt.

CK: Tell us something special about you!
Hunter: I am a level one brown belt.

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November Camper Spotlight – Katniss

november camper spotlight-photo 2Katniss of the ever-popular Hunger Games trilogy is strong, courageous and loyal, and Katniss of Camp Kesem Wisconsin-Madison is no different! We are so excited for you to meet our November camper spotlight, a wonderful girl who loves the friendships she’s made through Camp Kesem!

CK: What is your name, camp nickname and age?
Katniss: Madelyn Heuvelman, Katniss, and I’m 12 years old.

CK: How many years have you been with Camp Kesem?
Katniss: 3 years

CK: What makes you want to return to Camp Kesem?
Katniss: I return because I love to have fun, see my friends, and make new ones.

CK: What have you learned at Camp Kesem?
Katniss: I learned that making new friends leads you to wonderful opportunities.

CK: What is your favorite subject in school? Why?
Katniss: Band because I love playing percussion and Choir because I love singing.

CK: Do you have any cool hobbies? Do you play sports? Tell us about some of your favorite things to do in your spare time!
Katniss: I play video games, watch movies, and sing to songs in my spare time. I’m going to play trek in the spring.

CK: If you could describe Camp Kesem in one word, what would it be?
Katniss: Spectacular.

CK: Do you have a favorite memory from your time with Camp Kesem?
Katniss: All of them because all of them were awesome!

CK: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Katniss: An actress or a lawyer

CK: Who is someone you consider a hero?
Katniss: My mother is my hero because she was a strong woman who died a hero.

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October Camper Spotlight – Taco

As we kickoff the fall season, we are so excited to share our October Camper Spotlight with you coming from Camp Kesem at Virginia Commonwealth University! First-year camper and secret comedian Taco got to share the magic of Camp Kesem with his older sister Margo, who is a VCU counselor. When asked what he loves about Camp, Taco had a simple answer: everything. Taco_CamperSpotlightPhoto

CK: What is your name, camp nickname and age?

Taco: Eli Mariani, Taco, age 9!

CK: Was this your first year at Camp Kesem? How did you hear about Camp Kesem?

Taco: This was my first year. I learned about Camp Kesem from my big sister Margo. She is a student at VCU and was a counselor at camp.

CK: What was your favorite activity at Camp Kesem? What about your favorite song?

Taco: I loved the lake and the song Little Sally Walker.

CK: Do you have any hidden talents?

Taco: Comedy

CK: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Taco: Invisibility

CK: What is your spirit animal?

Taco: A lion

CK: What is your favorite subject in school? Favorite sport?

Taco: Science and Basketball.

CK: Who do you look up to and why?

Taco: My Dad because he is a Scientist

CK: What did you learn at Camp Kesem?

Taco: New songs and games.

CK: What do you love about Camp Kesem?
Taco: Everything!

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September Camper Spotlight – Fish & Pens

Fish and PensThere are a lot of great brother and sister duos…just think High School Musical’s Sharpay and Ryan Evans or the Duncan family from Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie, but Fish and Pens from Camp Kesem at the University of Georgia are by far the coolest. Fish is an avid swimmer while Pens prefers racing across the hockey rink, but both are crazy about Camp Kesem. Read more about the sibling pair in our September Camper Spotlight!

CK: What is your name, camper nickname and age:

Fish: Bella Cicogna, Fish, 13. I chose my ‘nickname’ because I am a swimmer and I swim 5 or 6 days every week.

CK: How did you hear about Camp Kesem?

Fish: We heard about Camp Kesem through a nurse at Atlanta Cancer Care.

CK: What was your favorite activity at Camp Kesem? What about your favorite song?

Fish: My favorite activity is the talent show, because everyone is together and we get to do fun things that we might not usually get to do. My favorite song is Princess Pat, because it is one of the most fun and upbeat songs that everyone does.

CK: Do you have any hidden talents?

Fish: I am secretly a very good writer (according to my teachers.) I just do it because I think it’s fun and I just happen to be good at it!

CK: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Fish: If I had a superpower, I would chose the power to transform into different animals at will. I would want this power because I have always been interested in how animals see the world around us differently than we do.

CK: What is your spirit animal?

Fish: I would think of myself as more of a dog or a wolf of some sort. I am playful and cheery, but I have found myself protective of people I love when I needed to be.

CK: What is your favorite subject in school? Favorite sport?

Fish: I would say Science, but I had to do a dissection recently, rat, yuck! So, that’s off the list. I have to say Spanish is my favorite, because the new language opens up a new field of discovery with new people and culture. My favorite sport is swimming, if the explanation for my camp name didn’t give that away.

CK: Who do you look up to and why?

Fish: The person I look up to most is my mom, because even though she went through chemo and surgery and all that treatment, she got up again and decided to become a teacher in Pilates, and that takes a lot of determination.

CK: What did you learn at Camp Kesem?

Fish: I have to say the biggest thing I learned at Camp Kesem was that even though all of us were scared and sad because of what our families were going through, we still formed friendships- and those friendships are stronger because of it. Through this I learned that even sadness can lead to the happiest of times.

CK: What do you love about Camp Kesem?

Fish: I love the fact that for one week, we can just go and be whoever we want, with no stress about school or what the popular clothes are or stuff like that.

CK: What’s it like attending camp with your brother?

Fish: I have to say that if I was given the choice to go a separate week than him, I wouldn’t do it. I feel like camp has made us stronger and made us into better people, and I enjoy watching Pens be so happy when we’re there.

CK: Pens, tell us about your involvement with hockey!

Pens: I do play hockey. I love to watch hockey because I want to grow up and play in the NHL and be like Sidney Crosby. When I grow up and I make it to the NHL, I want to be on my favorite hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I like them because they are great and they have all my favorite players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Chris Kunitz. My camp name, Pens comes from Penguins like Pittsburgh Penguins.

CK: Pens, what do you love about Camp Kesem?

Pens: I love Camp Kesem because all of the fun and games that we do. I like doing the songs that we do, they make me smile. It makes me forget that my Mom and Grandma had cancer. I love Kesem because I can talk to campers and counselors!

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August Camper Spotlight – Diva

Diva and OthersAs our magical camp season winds down and campers head back to school, we’d love to introduce you to a wonderful camper from CK Emory in Atlanta, Georgia, known as Diva! Diva, a “pro” insect hunter and track & field enthusiast, has been an Emory camper for the past two years and has loved her time with Camp Kesem.

CK: What is your camp nickname and how did you get it?

Diva: Diva, and my mother said that I was a diva, so I went with the name.

CK: When did you start attending Camp Kesem and how many summer(s) have you attended since?

Diva: I first attended Camp Kesem in  2013 & I went for 2 summers.

CK: What are some of your favorite activities/games/songs at Camp Kesem?

Diva: The Jellyfish is my favorite song ever.

CK: What do you love about Camp Kesem?

Diva: I love that we truly do become a family. Even though camping and being outdoors is not my favorite thing to do, every time I have been to empowerment I am thankful to be a part of the experience.

CK: What have you learned from attending Camp Kesem?

Diva:  I learned how to be a pro at killing bugs for one. But mostly to open up to people. Don’t have a brick wall on sand, just open up. You never know who you can affect just by being nice or just talking and interacting with others.

CK: Do you play sports and what are some of your favorite things to do at home?

Diva: I compete in track & field but my events are shot-put and discus. Also, I dance.

CK: What are some of your favorite subjects in school?

Diva: My favorite subject in school is English. I’m guessing that its hereditary since I like that class and because  my mother is an editor at Emory.

CK: Tell us about your family!

Diva: I love my family. I have a younger brother name Terence (aka Pets, aka Toucan), who is 16 and has autism. He is also the reason why I came to camp in the first place: to watch him and make sure that no one messed with him. My mom is great, She is a cancer survivor, who had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. She had it 2012, but has been cancer free for two years this month! My father, Vincent, lives in New York as do my other siblings.  I am not able to see them often, but we stay connected with social media and text and they are very entertaining people.

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July Camper Spotlight – Kid Flash

kid flashAs summer and our magical camp season continue, we’d love to introduce you to an awesome returning camper from Camp Kesem at Florida State University, Kid Flash!

CK: What is your camp name and real name?

Kid Flash: My camp name is Kid Flash and my real name is Chase Carlan.

CK: When did you start attending Camp Kesem and how many summer(s) have you attended since? 

Kid Flash: I started attending Camp Kesem in 2012, and I’ve now attended two camps in total.

CK: What are some of your favorite activities and songs at Camp Kesem? 

Kid Flash: I enjoy activities like capture the flag, soccer, swimming, nature walks.  I like the songs, “Elbows, knees, and toes” and “Jellyfish”.

CK: What do you love about Camp Kesem? 

Kid Flash:  I love that there are lots of new friends to meet like me.

CK: What have you learned by attending Camp Kesem?

Kid Flash: I’ve learned to talk and listen to others dealing with cancer.

CK: What are you most looking forward to about going back to Camp Kesem? 

Kid Flash: The reunion of the past campers with the addition of new friends and counselors.

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June Camper Spotlight – Doc


The Camp Kesem season begins in just SIX short days! As we continue to mark the days off of our calendars, we want you to meet Doc, a wonderful, long-time camper from CK Illinois that embodies the spirit of camp.

CK: What is your camper name and real name?

Doc: My camper name is Doc, but during the rest of the year I answer to Lucas Paschall.

CK: How did you get your camp name?

Doc: I got my camp name because when I first went to Camp Kesem there was a popular movie called Cars.  I loved the movie and decided to call myself Doc Hudson after one of the characters in the movie.  It later got shortened to just Doc!  I thought about asking to be called Mr. President but decided to go with Doc instead.

CK: When did you start attending camp and how many summers have you attended since?

Doc: I started attending CK Illinois in the summer of 2008.  Since then I have attended every summer, which makes 6 summers of Camp Kesem magic!

CK: What do you like to do year round?

Doc: When I am not at Camp Kesem I enjoy hiking, swimming, travelling, reading, music, visiting with family and friends and spending time with my 2 cats, Ren and Daisy.  During the school year I attend the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville, Illinois.  While there I participate in a number of activities including track, cheerleading, and speech team.  I have also been involved in school student council and a community service club.

CK: What is your favorite memory of Camp Kesem?

Doc: My favorite memory of CK Illinois is during the summer of 2013 the teen camp members, including me, decided to chant “no brakes” at the hay ride driver as we were at the top of a hill at night.  The hay ride driver luckily didn’t listen to us!

CK: What do you love about Camp Kesem?

Doc: I love Camp Kesem because it gives the kids of cancer patients a week to just be kids.  They can try to forget their troubles at home and they can have a really good time with the best counselors in all the land!!

CK: What are you looking forward to this summer at CK Illinois?

Doc: I am looking forward to spending a great week with campers and counselors alike and I am positive we will have the ride of our lives.  I am really glad I have the opportunity this summer to assist the counselors at CK Illinois as a Counselor-in-Training.  Thank you so much!  I can’t wait for CK Illinois 2014!!

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May Camper Spotlight – Kitty


We can almost hear those bonfires crackling, pools splashing and voices singing! Summer 2014 is almost upon us, and as we count down to our first camps of the season we’re excited to introduce you to Izzy, AKA Kitty, a returning camper from Camp Kesem at the University of Georgia!

CK: How old are you and when did you start attending Camp Kesem UGA?

Kitty: I’m 8-and-a-half years old, and I attended Camp Kesem UGA for the first time last year.

CK: What is your favorite thing about Camp Kesem?

Kitty: I don’t have a favorite thing…it’s EVERYTHING!

CK: What is one of your favorite memories from last summer at Camp?

Kitty: I liked when we had a big dance party.  We had glow sticks, and Goofy was the DJ.  I got to know a lot of people.

CK: What kind of activities do you enjoy during the year?

Kitty: I love to dance and I participate on a competitive dance company.  I also enjoy taking trapeze classes.  At home, I read, build forts with my little brother, and ride my bike.

CK: What’re you looking forward to as a returning camper this year?

Kitty: I’m looking forward to EVERYTHING! Especially seeing all of the counselors again!

Kitty’s mom, Lisa, signed Kitty up for CK UGA after a counselor from Kitty’s school and a helpful therapist from the Loran Smith Cancer Center provided her with information about Camp Kesem.

She reports that after attending camp, Kitty had a safe environment to work through her feelings while building relationships with great people who understood “what it was like to be her.” Lisa explains that for Kitty, camp is a magical place that is all her own.

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April Camper Spotlight – The Griffith Family

No wonder this family of four loves camp so much – they love the outdoors! Get excited for the quickly approaching camp 2014 season by hearing about the awesome things these campers love about Camp Kesem Oregon!

photo 1 (1)Adam, aka Jaeger!photo 3 (1)
Jaeger is 14 and started going to Camp Kesem Oregon when he was 11. He got his camp name because it is German for “Hunter”. This came from his love of hunting and being outdoors. Outside of camp he loves to go camping and fishing, play outside, read, and hang out with friends. His favorite part of Camp Kesem is how you can be around people that you can relate to so easily.

Benjamin, aka All-Star!
All-Star is also 14 and started attending camp when he was 11. He got the camp name All-Star because he has played lots of sports as a kid. During the year he spends time with his friends, helps his parents with chores around the property, and he loves to watch movies and do long-distance runs! His favorite thing about Camp Kesem is the rock wall. It presents challenges, and he likes to be challenged.

photo 2Julia, aka Rosie!photo 1 (2)
Rosie (left) is 11 years old and started going to Camp Kesem when she was 8. She got her camp name from her mom’s horse, Rosie! She loves riding horses during the year. Her favorite thing about Camp Kesem is the great friends you make, because you don’t feel alone.


Sophia, aka Tiger!
Tiger (right) is eight years old, and started going to Camp Kesem when she was just five! Her camp name is Tiger because she just came up with it. When she isn’t at camp, she likes to play outside, ride horses, crochet, and go on scavenger hunts! Her favorite activity at camp is going swimming.

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March Camper Spotlight – Cupcake

Second year camper Addy (aka Cupcake) feels the complete opposite about camp as she did just a year ago. Like most kids before their first year of camp, Cupcake was nervous to be away from home for the first time, but after talking to her we realized that it didn’t take long to change these feelings at all 🙂

Kesem connolly familyCupcake and her mother Amber (aka Bambi!) explained how nervous they both were for Cupcake to be leaving for a whole week – their first time away from each other for that long! Cupcake is nine and last summer was her first year at camp – Camp Kesem Nebraska’s inaugural week of Camp Kesem! Her favorite activities last summer were during arts and crafts. They filled bottles with colored sand in beautiful designs, and this is something Cupcake still loves to look at, as it reminds her of Camp Kesem. She cannot wait to attend camp this summer – she is especially excited for the Olympic theme and doing archery!

Bambi explained that since camp, Cupcake has become more outgoing and confident due to Camp Kesem and the wonderful support of the counselors and other campers at that first week of CK Nebraska in 2013. She said “You would not think six days could influence a kid so much but it can! We are so excited for camp again this year, I will be much less nervous and instead just excited for her to get to go!”

In 2015, Cupcake’s twin younger brother and sister will be old enough to attend Camp Kesem. Cupcake is excited for them to have this opportunity, and she will be more than experienced enough to make them feel more excited than scared for their first week of camp. It was great to hear these stories from Cupcake and how brave she was despite being nervous for the first year. We hope that this can show everyone interested in coming to Camp Kesem that all the counselors are there just for the campers, and they are just as excited as the kids! And remember, at one point in time, everyone has experienced being a first-year camper!
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February Camper Spotlight – Indie

Just in time for this camper’s birthday, we are excited to introduce to the Camp Kesem community Delaney Dow, aka Indie, from Camp Kesem MIT. We found out a little more about what Indie does when she isn’t writing amazing music such as her song “Traffic Lights”, which you can listen to by clicking this link.

photo 1CK:How old are you, and when did you first attend Camp Kesem?
Indie:I am 13, but I’ll be turning 14 on February 14. I’ve been going to Camp for 2 years now, or since I was 12.

CK:What is your favorite thing about Camp Kesem?
Indie:My favorite part about Camp is being able to surround myself with such an amazing support system. Camp is my second home. Everyone is so friendly, and we all support each other knowing that we all have a similar adversity to overcome. As cliche as it sounds, we’re all in this together (Queue High School Musical Sing-A-Long).

Dow fencingCK:How did you get your camp name?
Indie:I chose the name Indie because I like to create – and listen to – Indie music (For example: The 1975, Arctic Monkeys, The XX, Stromae, Matt Corby, Lorde, and Birdy). I also chose the name because Indie artists are just such creative, independent nonconformists, which is something I strive to be. I like the idea of being different, and going against the grain a little bit. I think that’s what makes you stand out, and having the courage to do something different from what people expect you to do is something I find admirable.

CK:What do you do during the year?
Indie:During the year I play soccer, basketball, and I fence. I also take music lessons where I study guitar, voice, ukelele, and music theory or song writing. I am also really into geography and current events so you can almost always find me reading news articles, novels, and books of poetry.

Indie also told us that she won her school geography bee, and will be moving on to the regional finals next Month, and that she also may be qualifying for the national youth fencing team! Good luck and many thanks, Indie!

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January Camper Spotlight – The Fallon Family

In the midst of the polar vortex in the Midwest, we got some Camp Kesem Michigan campers talking about camp to remind them that there is a light at the end of this (freezing) tunnel! Nutter Butter (aka Elizabeth) is 14 and has many interests that include Irish Dancing, performing, drawing, and hanging out with friends. Bean (aka Gillian) is 11 and she loves  softball, skiing, and singing.

CK: What is your favorite thing about Camp Kesem?
Nutter Butter: I like meeting people that you truly have something in common with that a lot of other people don’t have.
Bean: I don’t have one favorite thing, EVERYTHING is my favorite – especially lunch.

CK: What is your favorite memory from Camp Kesem?
Nutter Butter: Meeting J.Woww my first year, and baking cookies with the gold group last year. I also met my best friend, Sprinkles, last year.
Gillian: Cabin magic last year – we blew up balloons that had paint inside them and made art!

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The Fallon family also attended the National Summit in November, and they love coming to as many CK Michigan events as possible such as the 5k Turkey Trot, counselor meetings, and reunions. Mrs. Fallon even set up a parent panel for all of the camper parents to be able to communicate more easily, plan events and fundraisers, and ask questions more quickly. If you are interested in doing this for your family’s CK chapter, contact michigan@campkesem.org.

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December Camper Spotlight – The Hawn Family

IMG_0886For the holidays, we are giving you something extra for the Camper Spotlight – four campers! We should warn you, these brothers – Piano Man (Jack, 16), Riddle (Benjamin, 14), Fudge (Stephen, 12), and Harry Potter (Daniel, 10) – all have some pretty amazing talents. They have attended Camp Kesem Michigan since before the University of Michigan and MSU created their own individual camps!

Piano Man
Besides the obvious love for piano, Piano Man was born to be a dancer. He currently attends ballet school in Pittsburgh, where he lives with a few RAs and other students from all around the world. He is training to be a professional ballet dancer, miles away from his family at home in Michigan. PM spends five to six hours a day rehearsing, six days a week. In his minimal off time, he plays piano, explores the city with friends, and does schoolwork through cyber school. Originally, he auditioned for the summer intensive program, but not only did he get an acceptance, he also got an invitation to the year-round school, where he now is in his second year. Piano Man’s favorite part about Camp Kesem is the community in general; having such a strong tight-knit community where you don’t have to know the person previously before they become family. His advice is for everyone who’s involved to be as involved as they can, and for as long as possible. the more that everyone helps out, the more people want to help the organization grow. (Photo 2013 Richard Sofranko Photography)
Riddle plays soccer for the high school varsity team (as a freshman!), dabbles in guitar and piano, and plays violin a lot. He also enjoys drawing. His favorite part about Camp Kesem is that even when you aren’t at camp, you still feel like you are because you can still connect with your friends. His advice for people who have never been to camp is: “Raise your expectations. realize that it’s not a normal summer camp.” When we asked how he felt about knowing that he has three brothers at camp with him, he said that he doesn’t see them during the day really, but that he really likes being able to borrow things if he forgets them : )

Fudge - SoccerFudge
Fudge plays a lot of soccer, and a lot of guitar. He decided he wanted to play guitar after seeing family friends in a band. His favorite thing about Camp Kesem is “The people. Every person!” He has some great advice too: Really think about your camp name because you might regret your choice. Think hard about it before you arrive at camp. On how he feels about his brothers being at camp he says, “It’s that awkward stare during lunch like … I live with you outside of camp. I can be with them any other time, go away at camp” (Although Mom says that they are much closer after camp, regardless of saying they don’t want to hang out while they are there).

IMG_0728Harry Potter
Harry Potter, like Fudge and Riddle, likes to play soccer as well. However, instead of the guitar, he plays drums during church services! His favorite hobby is photography, which he discovered while playing around with his mom’s camera and learning from his cousin. His favorite thing about camp is that everyone who goes has the same problem and everyone can relate to it; you don’t feel like you have to hesitate or be around people who aren’t like you. Plus it’s really fun! His advice to new campers is to get as involved as you can, and then go as long as you can until you can be a CIT. Don’t be afraid because once you get there you’ll be happy that you went.


Thank you so much to the Hawn family for telling us all about your awesome talents! They also attended the National Leadership Summit at their home camp in Fenton, MI this year, where they spoke on the family panel to over 400 student leaders from CK about why they love the organization.

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November Camper Spotlight – Tartarus and Jalapeno

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For November, we have two campers new to CK Austin, who have some awesome hobbies. Tartarus (aka Adan, age 12) loves theatre and lizards! Jalapeno (aka Izzy, age 11) loves fashion, making art and collecting anything miniature.

We got to ask them a few questions about these awesome interests, as well as a few things about their time with CK!

Q. What is your favorite thing about Camp Kesem? How did you get your camp name?
Tartarus: My favorite part about Camp Kesem is getting to know a bunch of people that I’ve never met before and making new friends. I chose the name Tartarus because I like Greek mythology and how unreal it seems. I like whenever I read a book about it, it’s like I enter that world.
Jalapeno: My favorite part about Camp Kesem is meeting new friends and hearing everyone’s stories about why they are there. I chose the name Jalapeno because I love to eat jalapenos and any spicy food really.

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Q. Jalapeno, what is your favorite miniature object in your collection?
A. My little mini Coca-Cola cup is my favorite because it’s so cute and tiny and only about one centimeter tall.

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Q. Tartarus, what is your favorite play you’ve ever been in?
A. Probably the one I’m in right now (To Kill A Mockingbird) because it’s full of suspense!

Q. Jalapeno, what do you plan to do with all the art you create?
A. I like to hang it on my walls and give it to my mom.

Q. Tartarus, if you could be any type of lizard, what would it be?
A. I would be a bearded dragon because I’ve been fascinated with that creature since I was about two years old.

Thank you to Tartarus and Jalapeno for telling us about your unique interests and hobbies!

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October Camper Spotlight – Xena and Enderseeker

Just in time for Halloween, we have two awesome campers very involved in film, and more specifically, horror films.


Meet Xena (aka Naomi), age 13 and her brother Enderseeker (aka Tyler), age 10. Xena and Enderseeker are both campers at CK UCLA. They have both been featured in big films lately: Xena debuted in “A House is Not a Home,” which won first place in the Burbank Film Festival for the horror genre, and Enderseeker debuted in “Insidious Chapter 2” which was a box office hit.griffins at camp

This dynamic duo goes to three to five auditions per week. In a two week’s time they might also go to three acting classes, a voice class, and an improv class. They still find time to hang out with their friends a lot, and sometimes they even bring them to their auditions! Their dad made sure to mention that don’t get a break from their homework, though, especially because their mom is their manager.   : )

We were lucky to be squeezed into these superstars’ schedule for a couple of questions:

CK: Is it actually scary to act in a horror film?
Enderseeker: I’m not scared when I’m shooting because first of all, I know we’re just acting and second of all, there’s lots of people around me working on the set.”
Xena: Half of what you see in the movie, you don’t see when you’re actually there… When you’re there, you know that nothing is actually going to hurt you.

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CK: How do you feel watching a film you are in after it is complete?
Xena: It depends on how you feel that you played your part. If you fee that you did good at your part then it doesn’t matter what people think.
Enderseeker: If I see myself on film and others start complimenting something in the film when I watch it, I”m usually like OK, that’s kind of cool… I Like that. Either way it’s their opinion and they are entitled to it!

CK: What are your favorite scary movies?
Enderseeker: “The Conjuring” is one of the two scary movies that have actually scared me… That, and “The Thing” (the original).
Xena: “The Call.”

Thank you Xena and Enderseeker! Make sure to check out www.ourzombiemother.com to learn more about their Dad’s new horromedy (horror/comedy) series starring Xena, Enderseeker, and Maria Olsen (from Percy Jackson’s Lightning Thief), which is a family-friendly Zombie story!


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September Camper Spotlight – Bamboo

Welcome to the September spotlight, featuring Bamboo (aka Dara Yu)! Bamboo and her sister, 1:07 (Elena Yu) have been long time Camp Kesem campers. 1:07 started attending in 2005 and is now a counselor at our UCLA chapter. Bamboo has been a camper since 2007. The two started attending Camp Kesem at UCLA when their father was diagnosed with cancer and have been a part of our family ever since!

bambooSeptember was an especially exciting month for 12-year old Bamboo because she made her TV debut! Back in April she auditioned and was cast in a new competition show on FOX called Masterchef Junior with host, Gordon Ramsey. We got the chance to catch up with Bamboo about her experience and her interest in the culinary world:
CK: So tell us about your experience with the show!
Bamboo: Well, there were 24 of us total. We ranged from 8 to 13, but most of the kids were around my age – 11- and 12-yr olds. It was really fun because everyone is just like you, we all love to cook! After three weeks of filming, everyone is like family to us now. The show was so fun – every challenge was awesome! They would give us a challenge, but we could still do what we wanted with it, so it was even more fun.

CK: How was the host, Gordon Ramsey?
Bamboo: He’s actually really nice! He has 4 kids of his own, so he knows how we work.

masterchef CK: What made you want to start cooking?
Bamboo: My grandma was in a cook book and has been cooking since she was my age. I grew up around her and she taught me a lot. My palate has really grown also from traveling a lot and going to a lot of restaurants. I love learning how to cook and getting to taste good food!

bamboo foodCK: What are some of your favorite things to make?
Bamboo: Well, at home, I bake a lot. I recently mastered French Macarons! My favorite flavors are raspberry and lavender. For dinner, I like to experiment with different meats. One of the dishes I made on the show was an herb-crusted rack of lamb with a yogurt mint sauce. I usually also include a carb or a starch and of course a veggie.

Thanks Bamboo! Be sure to check out her on Masterchef Junior on Fridays this Fall at 8/7c on FOX! 
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August Camper Spotlight – Maverick

Hello Camp Kesem! Welcome to our first ever camper spotlight, featuring Maverick (aka Derek Tully)! Maverick was less than enthusiastic about going to Camp Kesem when his mother first told him about it. He was just nine years old, and his father was a cancer survivor. Most of his memories from his Dad’s illness were blurry; it was a confusing time for such a young boy. But with his mother’s urging, Maverick agreed to go to camp.


It was UC Davis’ inaugural Camp Kesem. There were just 13 campers that first year and Maverick received the royal treatment from the student leaders. “I had a really good time. All the counselors loved hanging with the kids. Everyone became very close. Then I just kept going after that..”

Fast forward nine years. Maverick is now the longest attending UC Davis camper. “Camp has had a big impact on my life; it really helped me with understanding what my Dad went through and help me to deal with it, especially what I didn’t understand earlier. Camp Kesem also gave me a chance to meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends that went through the same things I did.”

This summer, Maverick became a Counselor-in-Training (CIT) for the UC Davis camp. “I went in thinking I was just going to be an ‘older camper’ but then you are really a counselor,” said Maverick.

“For some kids it was their first time; they were very reluctant,” explained Maverick. “One boy was at Camp for the first time and he was crying before we left. Both his mom and my parents and I were encouraging him to get on the bus. He struggled at first, but then after a while he saw how everyone was having so much fun. The counselors really did a good job at keeping him active. In the end, he had a great time and was very involved. I think camp helped him a lot.”

Maverick graduated from high school this year. In the fall, he heads up to University of Oregon to study Marine Biology. Oh, and of course he is already planning to join Oregon’s Camp Kesem chapter.

“It’s not about me anymore,” says Maverick, “It’s more for the kids. I know that camp really affects their lives – forever. I want to pass on my memories to them and help them make their own memories. I want to keep Camp Kesem going strong.”