Staff

We are so lucky to have so many dedicated individuals as part of our team!  We would not be able to spread the magic without our coordinators, counselors, general members, advisory board and camp staff!  We really appreciate all of their help and support!

The 2013-2014 Executive Board of Camp Kesem has been responsible for shaping the beginnings of Camp Kesem at Case Western Reserve University. These individuals were selected through a rigorous interview process in order to ensure that the first year runs smoothly and efficiently.

Co-Directors

Brandon “BumBum” Vu

One of the founding members of Camp Kesem, Brandon Vu is a senior at Case Western majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Anthroplogy. He is also a member of the Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity and a lab monkey in the Salomon Lab of the Chemistry Department. In his off days, he loves searching for music and enjoys watching the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Why He Kesems

“I have always had an interest in connecting the Case Western community with residents of the greater Cleveland area. Camp Kesem provides the perfect bridge between CWRU students and local children affected by their parent’s cancer. I am grateful for this unique opportunity to work with these children, and I hope that we can form a lasting relationship for the future.”

Yssra “Sparkles” Soliman

Yssra Soliman is a senior at CWRU, majoring in psychology and biology and minoring in Arabic. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, her family currently resides in Central Pennyslvania. Along with her involvement in CK, she is also the president of the Middle Eastern Cultural Association, vice president of the Muslim Student Association and a resident assistant. She hopes to attend medical school upon graduation and to, one day, become a physician in the field of pediatrics.

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I was once one of these kids. Four years ago, my father was diagnosed with cancer and it changed my life. These kids are incredibly strong, and I believe that they are some of tomorrow’s greatest leaders. CK simply makes them realize this by bringing them into a supportive and safe environment. Kesem helps the children realize that they are not alone and helps them heal. The magic of camp will impact the children for a lifetime.”

Operations

Adah “Monkey” Zhang

Adah Zhang is a Junior Applied Mathematics major with a concentration in Biostatistics originally from Orange, OH, a suburb of Cleveland. In addition to Camp Kesem, she is on the executive board of Kappa Alpha Theta serving as the Chief Administration Officer and on the cabinet as New Member Director. Furthermore, Adah works at the Biomedical Engineering Department in Administration as an Assistant Accountant. Adah plans on going to graduate school in Biostatistics. In her spare time, Adah enjoys running, the outdoors, and trying new foods.

Why She Kesems

“I Camp Kesem because I have seen firsthand what a camp for kids with family members affected by cancer can do for both the kids and the counselors. When a family member of mine was affected by cancer, I was too old to attend such a camp, so I volunteered as a counselor. The experience I had through this non-profit organization benefited me as much as the experience benefited the kids. I Camp Kesem because I know that such an organization fosters a unique and tight-knit family that is supportive through all stages of life.”

Vid “Neem” Yogeswaran

Vid’s full first name is actually nine letters, because all Sri Lankans have ridiculously long names. She is a senior biology major at CWRU and was also one of the founders of Camp Kesem at CWRU! She was born in Southampton, England and has lived in over ten different homes. Most of her life has been spent in London, England and Brooklyn, New York. Unfortunately, she does not have an accent. Vid aspires to be a diagnostic physician focusing on cancer and health reform.

Why She Kesems

“I was affected by cancer when I was younger. One of the things I realized was that I could have overcome it much sooner if I had had more support. That’s what I love about Camp Kesem. While it’s difficult to have cancer, it’s just as difficult to love someone with cancer. Camp Kesem really empowers these children and gives them the support they need to become the happiest and strongest people they can be.”

Community Outreach

Kayleena “Kit Kat Brashear

Kayleena Brashear is a current sophomore at CWRU planning on a major in psychology and a Spanish minor. She is also very involved on campus with her sorority, Alpha Phi. Kayleena is originally from Geneva, Ohio and enjoys visiting her family often on weekends. Her plans for the future include going to graduate school for a masters in clinical counseling in order to work with children and their families.

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I am passionate about helping people through difficult times in their lives. My career goals make it obvious that I especially care about children, and Camp Kesem is such a unique opportunity to work with kids who are affected by a parent’s cancer. Through my personal experience, I have seen the mental and emotional toll cancer can have on immediate family members. My Aunt passed away due to cancer before I ever had the chance to meet her and last year, my best friend’s mom was diagnosed. I couldn’t imagine a better organization to channel my passion into!”

Kenya “Little Turtle” Coleman

Kenya Coleman is currently a sophomore Nursing major at Case Western Reserve University. She is originally from Mexico but she moved to the U.S during the summer of 2007 to pursue a higher quality education. She used to go back every summer to Mexico to visit her family but starting next summer she will settle down in Cleveland to work at either the Cleveland Clinic or University Hospitals in order to master the skills she has learned. As a fan of variety, she is involved in various groups on campus that encompass various sectors of society, she also enjoys reading, watching scary movies, going on bike rides, going to the gym and spending time with her family and friends. She aspires to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner and travel the world to discover the beautiful sights that the world has to offer.

Why She Kesems

“The driving force that inspired me to become a part of Kesem was my personal experience of having my grandpa suffering from cancer.He was like a father to me, a best friend, a role model of someone who faced many struggles in life yet never gave up and who maintained an incredible inner strength up to the very last moment. Seeing the man I admire more than anything was nothing short of easy and I had to live through this situation without being able to express my feelings because I knew everyone else had their own distress. Because I know what it’s like to live through this in silence, I don’t want kids to have to go through the same thing I did, I want them to know that there are people out there who care for them, understand what they’re going through and who will do everything in their power to bring the light back to their eyes, to remind them that in spite of the obstacles they’re facing, this world is still a beautiful place filled with kindness and love. I believe that there is no greater good in this world than being the reason behind a child’s genuine smile and I Kesem to make this a reality for the kids.”

Development

Tia “Muffins” Mullins

Tia Mullins is a Junior at Case Western, majoring in Political Sceince and minoring in Spanish. Along with her involvement in Camp Kesem, she is actively involved in SpartanTHON and volunteers at the Cleveland International Services Center for Refugees. She has interests in international relations, and hopes to pursue a career in law post graduation.

Why She Kesems

“I joined Camp Kesem because I have a passion for helping kids. For these kids, there are not many resources available to help them during this difficult situation. Camp Kesem is the only organization that embraces this often-overlooked population. Through support and understanding, we provide an outlet and a sense of community for these kids that they might not otherwise have access to. Not only are we making an impact in these kids’ lives, we are impacting their parents’ lives as well. Parents might not be able to provide their children with the support and encouragement they need due to their battle with cancer, and that is what Camp Kesem is for. A stranger’s kindness can go a long way, and I believe Camp Kesem makes a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer.”

Suneil “Sunny” Kamath

Suneil Kamath is a sophomore business management student at CWRU. He is a member of the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning executive council, the civic engagement reporter for The Observer, and a member of Design For America. In his spare time, Suneil likes to catch up on TV shows, eat and try new foods, and play the violin and tennis.

Why He Kesems

“When I was in high school, I organized day camps for cancer patients and their siblings at a local children’s hospital. After months of experiencing challenge after challenge, the patients’ and their siblings’ loved the camp. It was a way for them to express their emotions, bond with others, and forget the hardships that they experienced. The smiles on their faces and the joy they exuded made me realize the importance the camp had on their emotional well-being; and I wanted to help organize a similar initiative in Cleveland. That’s why I Kesem.”

Volunteer

Pierce “Blue” Curran

Pierce Curran is currently a Sophomore at CWRU and is originally from Long Island, New York. He is majoring in both Psychology and Biology with intended minors in Childhood Studies and Social work. He intends to enlist in the Peace Corps after graduating, after which he plans to attend Medical School to become a Pediatric Surgeon. He is heavily involved in his fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, and has held positions such as Recruitment Chair. He is also involved in other organization on campus including the Horizons Mentorship Program (where he is the coordinator of the mentorship committee) and, of course, Camp Kesem.

Why He Kesems

“For me, Camp Kesem is a place for these kids to grow into stronger people, to learn about what other kids like them are going through, and also, maybe most importantly, a place where these kids can have fun and forget about cancer for a little while. I remember what it was like to be a young kid whose mom had cancer, and I remember how scary and confusing it was to hear about my mom’s battle growing up. I’m grateful every day that I didn’t lose her, but I know that there are quite possibly millions of children out there today that are struggling to cope with the impact cancer has had on them and their families. I Kesem because at camp these children can not only find comfort in the fact that they aren’t alone, but can also learn to cope with what’s going on in their lives and build a network of people willing and able to support them as they move forward.”

Vashti “Hazel” Aguilar

Vashti Aguilar is a senior at CWRU, majoring in Biology and minoring in Communication Sciences and Chemistry. Originally from Venezuela, Vashti grew up on the outskirts of Chicago, Il. She is involved in CK, Emergency Medicine Research Division, Hillel and Chabad at Case. She enjoys immersing herself in the Case and Cleveland community as a mentor, mentee, and volunteer. She participates in cultural events and performs as a singer when she gets the chance. Vashti hopes to attend medical school and do international environmental health work as a physician and activist in the present and future.

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because Cancer has been a recurring reality around me. My father is a cancer survivor, and I have seen him deal with many health issues because of the treatments he underwent when fighting cancer. My view of cancer has changed throughout the years. Although cancer can be terrifying and tragic in a family, there is no better way to fight it than with positive energy and love and hope. CK doesn’t just help provide a support group for kids who have parents who have/had cancer. CK is stronger than any chemo or radiation. It is a channel of support, hope, and life to parents/guardians and their children. The energy CK provides can kill multiple cancerous cells and pain all at once. When I found out about CK at other schools I remember thinking that we too needed to bring this Kesem to the Case community. Now that CK at Case is here, I cannot pass the opportunity to fuel the Healing power that CK provides.”

Marketing

Tanvi “Chewy” Parmar

Tanvi Parmar is currently a sophomore Finance major at CWRU’s Weatherhead School of Management. She is originally from the wonderful town of South Brunswick, New Jersey. She enjoys her other roles on campus involving the school newspaper, undergraduate student government, Relay for Life and the tennis club. When she is not swamped with work (and even when she is) she loves to look up punny jokes, sing along to 80′s music and watch romantic comedies.

Why She Kesems

“I really believe in the cause that Camp Kesem advocates- to recognize the children who silently suffer and give them a happy and supportive place to make new friends and network. As someone who had a rare heart surgery when she was a child, I understand the importance of surrounding yourself with caring people who keep you smiling each and every day, even when you’re having a low day. Really, I want to be the needed support similar to what I gratefully received as a three year old kid.”

Christie “KhaleesiEllis

Christie Ellis is a senior at CWRU, double majoring in Medical Anthropology and Cognitive Science. Born in Ashtabula, Ohio, Christie has lived in Northeast Ohio her entire life. Along with Camp Kesem, she is heavily involved in her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and the Anthropology Student Association. Christie plans on pursuing a career focused on public health inequalities in public policy, and has particular interests in urban populations of impoverished children.

Why She Kesems

“When I first heard of Camp Kesem, it intrigued me because of the population it focused on– these children are often overlooked when people think about the effects of cancer. When I was growing up, one of my family members suffered from a mental disorder, and this dramatically affected both my lifestyle and personality. I can only imagine how different those experiences would have been if I was able to share them with others in the same situation– the sense of normalcy would have changed everything. Camp Kesem is able to do just that for the children of cancer patients. Being able to be part of this organization and help create a support system for these children is an amazing opportunity, and I am happy I can help spread the love.”

Counselors

We are proud to present our very first group of camp counselors for this summer! 

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Duck “Goose” Rhee

Duck H. Rhee is a first-year Sociology major who seeks in finding the best in himself through the best in others. Duck is a brother of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity of the Western Reserve Chapter, a radio programmer for WRUW, and is also interested in research regarding gender and sexuality. Camp Kesem is his newest objective, and under his alias: Goose, he plans on building friendship with his campers and help them in their time of need.

Why He Kesems

“I Kesem because my mission has always been to help those in need. Children who are affected indirectly by cancer truly require assistance in their youth development, as most of these adolescents have difficulty relying on their parental support. As a counselor, my objective is to apply theoretical lenses and perspectives of sociology and social work to help mitigate the grief and loss felt by the children in the local and distant communities.”

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Tia “Muffins” Mullins

Tia Mullins is a Junior at Case Western, majoring in Political Sceince and minoring in Spanish. Along with her involvment in Camp Kesem, she is actively involved in SpartanTHON and volunteers at the Cleveland International Services Center for Refugees. She has interests in international relations, and hopes to pursue a career in law post graduation.

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I have a passion for helping kids. For these kids, there are not many resources available to help them during this difficult situation. Camp Kesem is the only organization that embraces this often-overlooked population. Through support and understanding, we provide an outlet and a sense of community for these kids that they might not otherwise have access to. Not only are we making an impact in these kids’ lives, we are impacting their parents’ lives as well. Parents might not be able to provide their children with the support and encouragement they need due to their battle with cancer, and that is what Camp Kesem is for. A stranger’s kidness can go a long way, and I believe Camp Kesem makes a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer.”

 

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Elliott “Elmo” Pereira

Elliott Pereira is a first year biochemistry student at Case Western. Along with Camp Kesem, Elliott is involved with Undergraduate Student Government, volunteering at University Hospitals as a Health Coach, and photographer for the school paper, the Observer. In his free time, Elliott loves playing basketball, watching sports, taking photos, and eating out at new places. Elliott chose the name Elmo because that was a pet nickname that always stuck with him and who doesn’t love Elmo!

Why He Kesems

“I Kesem because in the past I have volunteered with kids in other summer camps and immersion trips, and the experience has been truly life changing. I am passionate about helping others and being there for them, and I love working with kids. While I have personally not been affected by cancer, I understand that children whose families have been affected by cancer need lots of support and care. Camp Kesem is the opportunity for me to be that form of support. It means so much to me that I can give them a week free of stress that they may be dealing with. Kids should have the time to be kids and have fun, and I am hoping that I can give this to them while also being the support that they may need.”

 

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Sasha “Curly” Ali

Sasha Ali is a sophomore majoring in art history at Case Western. She is currently unsure of what exactly she’s going to be when she grows up but she isn’t too worried about it. She does know that whatever she does will involve helping people and traveling. When she’s not studying, Sasha loves listening to music, watching movies, reading books, eating tacos and rooting for Liverpool and Barcelona. Sasha is super excited to be a counselor this summer at Camp Kesem

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because Camp Kesem is so different from most other organizations. From fundraising to planning to executing, the camp is completely run by college students such as myself. This experience of putting together the camp and seeing the results in person empowers students in a way that is truly unmatched.”

 

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Meredith “Piggie” Lee

Meredith Lee is a Sophomore nursing student at Case Western. She plays on the women’s tennis team and is member of Case Athletic Student Association. In addition to her athletic involvement, she is also a sister of the Ohio Lambda chapter of Pi Beta Phi. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, any kind of sport, and she is thrilled to be able to spend a part of her summer with Camp Kesem forming friendships and being a mentor.

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I have always had an interest in entertaining and working with all ages of children. Being able to interact and establish relationships with kids who have something in common and make a difference in their lives will be an experience unlike any other. Although cancer is becoming more prevalent, not all children have family exposure. This organization will be an opportunity for them to form close bonds with those who they can relate to as well as give them a break from the daily stresses they may have at home. As a camp counselor, I look forward to giving support and making memories with this group of loved individuals while at the same time allowing these kids be kids.”

 

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Liz “Tiger” Mercer

Liz Mercer is a sophomore planning to graduate in May 2016 with Bachelor’s Degrees in Biochemistry and Spanish. With those degrees she plans to attend medical school in the midwest and travel abroad to work internationally. She loves spending time reading nonfiction books as well as swimming recreationally. She love listening to Alternative and Hardcore music. Although she doesn’t enjoy college sports, she absolutely loves supporting her hometown, Dayton Ohio, during March Madness. After traveling to Bolivia in June 2014, and getting her wisdom teeth removed, Liz cannot wait to end her summer with a wonderful week at Camp Kesem! Keep Calm and Kesem On!

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Pierce “Blue” Curran

Pierce Curran is a Sophomore Biology and Psychology Major with a Minor in Childhood Studies. He plans on joining the Peace Corps or a similar international service organization after graduation. He is on the Pre-med track at Case and intends to go to medical school somewhere a little warmer than Cleveland after his involvement with foreign service. He enjoys having a busy schedule and when he isn’t working on something for his favorite organization (Camp Kesem!!) he is involved with his Fraternity (Zeta Beta Tau), the Horizons mentorship program, and volunteering at the Free Clinic. He loves country music, his dog Buddy, the Yankees, and the movie “Old School” (which explains his camp name: Blue!).

Why He Kesems

“I Kesem because I know what it’s like to be a child whose parent has cancer. Growing up, my mother was diagnosed with stage III Breast Cancer, so I grew up in a similar environment as many of these children. Camp Kesem is the only place I know of where this unique demographic of children is able to get together to share their experiences, build a network of people who understand what they’re going through, and most importantly: have fun! I can’t wait to give these children an experience they’ll never forget at Camp Kesem!”

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Sanjana “Snickers” Soni

Sanjana Soni is a junior majoring in nutritional biochemistry and medical anthropology, and can not wait to start medical school after college. She hopes to give back to children everyday as a pediatrician specializing in nutrition services. Sanjana knows that she will have a great experience at Camp Kesem given her interests in helping children strive for their best. She is the current president of Phi Delta Epsilon international medical fraternity and a sister of Kappa Alpha Theta. She especially enjoys doing service and community outreach programs with her friends, running and cooking. Sanjana is looking forward to Camp Kesem and making memories for a lifetime!

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because making kids smile is one of the greatest feelings imaginable. Kids deserve to live a fun childhood, while also learning and gaining strength from any hardships that they may come across. I want to support these kids and their families because I know firsthand on how emotional and difficult cancer can be. As a camp counselor, I will do my best to make Camp Kesem a home and an enjoyable place for these kids that may feel neglected, confused or concerned. I am looking forward to providing these children with the opportunity to make incredible bonds and great memories at camp.”

 

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Lizzie “Sumo” Stotter

Lizzie is a junior majoring in psychology and sociology. She hopes to pursue a career in social work or counseling someday, so she is exited to gain such personal and relevant experience at camp. Lizzie has held leadership positions in Alpha Phi and has been involved in the community through various jobs. Her favorite was freshman year when she was a Shaker Heights middle school lacrosse coach. She has spent many summers being a camp counselor, but she is looking forward to what Camp Kesem is able to offer.

Why She Kesems

“Kids are capable of being the most resiliant people. In the face of adversity, kids are able to still be kids. I Kesem because I admire this quality in them. I want to be a part of their fun times, and a part of their concerns. I know how much cancer effects entire families as my family was one of them. These kids will be inspirational to work with, and I hope that I can offer them the support and experience they deserve!”

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Natalie “Noodle” Southard

Natalie Southard is a junior majoring in Nursing. She is a sister of the Alpha Phi Fraternity in the Zeta Pi chapter at Case Western. She played varsity volleyball at Case for 3 years and enjoys spending time outdoors! She is so excited to develop meaningful relationships and amazing memories this summer at Camp Kesem!

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I am passionate about children and want each and every one of them to have great opportunities during their childhood. Camp Kesem is a perfect outlet for children affected by their parent’s cancer to have a stress free week and connect with other kids who can relate to them on a personal level. I can’t wait to reach out to these children and be apart of their healing process as well as their fun memories from camp.”

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Pranav “Bear” Singh

Pranav Singh is a Sophmore Medical Anthropology Major who plans on attending Medical School after graduating. He enjoys travelling and staying busy with work and helping others. He is currently involved with his Fraternity (Zeta Psi), the Emergency Medicine Research Division, enjoys tutoring students in K-12 from the Cleveland City Area, and most importantly Camp Kesem. He loves listening to music, the Buckeyes, the TV show Scrubs, and watching movies. Pranav is absolutely excited to be a camp counselor this year and cannot wait to help give the kids a experience they won’t forget!

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Kayleena “Kit Kat” Brashear

Kayleena Brashear is a current sophomore at CWRU planning on a major in psychology and a Spanish minor. She is also very involved on campus with her sorority, Alpha Phi. Kayleena is originally from Geneva, Ohio and enjoys visiting her family often on weekends. Her plans for the future include going to graduate school for a masters in clinical counseling in order to work with children and their families.

Why  She Kesems

“I Kesem because I am passionate about helping people through difficult times in their lives. My career goals make it obvious that I especially care about children, and Camp Kesem is such a unique opportunity to work with kids who are affected by a parent’s cancer. Through my personal experience, I have seen the mental and emotional toll cancer can have on immediate family members. My Aunt passed away due to cancer before I ever had the chance to meet her and last year, my best friend’s mom was diagnosed. I couldn’t imagine a better organization to channel my passion into!”

 

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Julie “Grapes” Welch

Julie Welch is a first year Pre-Med student at Case Western. She is involved with research in the emergency department at University Hospitals. She is involved in and has a passion for Relay For Life at CWRU. She also loves to spend time with friends and sisters in her sorority (Phi Mu). When not busy with school and extracurriculars, Julie enjoys listening to music, going to concerts, and travelling! Last but definitely not least, she is super excited to get to be a part of Camp Kesem as a counselor for CWRU’s first ever Camp Kesem!

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I have had a parent affected by cancer. As a kid, it can be a hard experience given that there is so much that you don’t know and understand. I think it is important that we help facilitate an environment where kids can find support in other kids going through a similar experience. Although unfortunate, it’s nice to have someone that truly does understand what you’re going through. I am so excited and fortunate to be a part of Camp Kesem and to help make this mission a reality!”

 

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Luchang “Squirrel” Zhang

Luchang is going to be a third year psychology student at Case Western. Her favorite sport is rowing because she used to row throughout her high school career. On campus, she is part of Kismat dance team and also a sister of Alpha Phi. She has been involved in cancer research in the department of Radiation Oncology at Case since her senior year in high school. Last but not the least, she is a proud Clevelander!

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I like working with kids and helping them as much as I can. Camp Kesem is a great organization where I am given the chance to interact with children whose parents are diagnosed with cancer. Knowing that one week of my life can bring smiles on their faces make this mission more meaningful.”

 

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Fusa “Kahuna” Kambara

Fusa graduated Case Western in May with a Biochemistry major. He was a brother of APO, a part of the scuba diving club, the Case mens’ glee club, the president of the sports medicine club. He was also involved in Cancer research at the department of Pathology. He is very excited to be a part of the counselor team for CWRU’s first Camp Kesem!!

Why He Kesems

“I Kesem because I have had experience in dealing with my mother when my grandmother was affected by cancer. Seeing how hard it was for her as an adult, I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be for children. I am glad that I can assist these children in the slightest way and give them a positive experience.”

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Tanvi “Chewy” Parmar

Tanvi Parmar is a sophomore finance major who really loves to be involved with student government, Relay for Life and, of course, Camp Kesem! She chose the name “Chewy” because she loves warm and chewy chocolate chip cookies and because one of her favorite characters from her favorite movie, Star Wars, is Chewbacca.

Why She Kesems

“I Kesem because I really want to help the generally unrecognized population of kids who have to deal with so much stress and pain when their parents are suffering with cancer. These children are forced to grow up a lot faster than most other children. Because of that, I want to be a camp counselor so I can help these kids learn to slow down, enjoy their childhood and just have fun being a kid.