Counselor Blogs- Rafiki

224756_480883261930132_1113945517_nHowdy! My name is Louie Elizondo (or Rafiki at camp) and I am a senior Bachelor of Science in Psychology major from San Antonio, Texas. I transferred here to Texas A&M in the Spring of 2011 and right away I received an email from Camp Kesem about applying to be a counselor. This was not the first time I had heard of Camp Kesem though.

My freshman year of college, when I still attended UTSA back home, a former teacher of mine from high school was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Melanoma. All of her students, including me, had more than just a teacher/student relationship with her, she was our friend. She was even my friend on MySpace! This news came as a shock to us all and without hesitation we all rallied around her to show our support of her battle with this vicious disease. I spent many weeknights going over to her house to help her kids with their homework while she was away in Houston undergoing treatment, and I signed up to take meals over to their house when she was unable to cook. I wanted to be there for her because she was always there for me. Throughout her treatment, she would keep us updated with her blogs and through facebook posts. One day I was perusing my facebook news feed when I saw a post from her about voting for this Camp Kesem thing in the Pepsi Refresh Project so they could win an enormously large amount of money. Being a hardcore A&M alumni, she pushed hard for this. I clicked the link, read about the organization’s mission and voted for them. I didn’t think much of it, but I definitely thought what they were doing was awesome. Fast forward 10 months and here I am at my computer with this email saying I should apply to be a counselor. I jumped at the opportunity. After being selected as a counselor, I found out my teacher’s children would also be at camp! From that moment on, I could NOT wait for camp to get here.

As a counselor, you’re put through training and prepared for a week of “magic”, but magic can’t even begin to explain what camp is. Meeting all of the kids and their families is something I will never forget. Everyone had a different family dynamic and came from a different part of Texas, but they were all there for the same purpose. Each child was able to relate to one another on what they had been through and able to share similar experiences with cancer. After the first day, the boys of yellow, along with the other counselors and I, were a family. We’d wake up every day with the energy of 1,000 burning suns and end the day so tired, we didn’t want to shower. Messy Olympics, Gaga, hiking and adventuring, all of it was the most fun I had had as a young adult and probably more fun than anything I did as a kid. At night, the boys would open up about their parent’s illness during cabin chat and it would bring us that much closer. Of course, guys being guys, there was talk of robots and superheroes and video games thrown in the mix. At the end of the week, I was sad to see everyone leave and I didn’t want to get back to the reality of being a college student. I was able to spend one amazing week with kids I had just met and will remember for a lifetime. I even got to see my teacher one last time before she passed away just two weeks after camp ended.

These campers who attend Camp Kesem are forced to mature very quickly. I can’t imagine ever having to go through that and face losing the best parts of my childhood. That’s what we’re here for at camp. To remind them that they can still be kids and have the time of their lives. These past two years at camp are experiences I will never forget. They’ve shaped who I am today and changed my outlook on life. I am forever grateful to Camp Kesem for that. And to all you kids going to camp this summer…GET READY!

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