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Counselor Blogs: Real Magic is Camp Kesem

This entry is part of a series in which each of our counselors reflects upon his or her unique experiences with Camp Kesem. Today’s entry is by Leighton “Lightning” Tso, who served as a counselor at camp this year and is currently serving on our executive board as the media coordinator. 

Real magic isn’t pulling a rabbit out of a hat or sawing a person in half. It isn’t an endless string of handkerchiefs being pulled out of a sleeve or making giant objects disappear. Real magic is Camp Kesem, and this is why:

After months of meetings, I still found myself glancing awkwardly at the college students standing beside me. We were struggling our way through learning camp songs, mumbling the words and chuckling sheepishly at the goofy lyrics. There were only minutes before the very first Camp Kesem UGA campers were to arrive and I barely had a grasp on the other counselors’ camp names. Sure, there had been attempts to break the ice during training but everyone still seemed wary and uncertain. It was too late now and I was a little worried. Super excited, but a little worried.

Then something unbelievable happened. Our ragtag crew of college students transformed almost instantly into the most impressive camp team I could imagine. Bright eyes and big smiles were on each and every counselor’s face; ridiculous camp tunes were being hummed under

everyone’s breath. We worked our specific welcoming duties like camp champions, unified and efficient, and joked amongst each other like childhood friends. A family is what we created in record time, eager to invite new members into the safety and fun of good friends. What caused this incredible transformation? A girl we call Nemo, the very first child to arrive and be called a Camp Kesem UGA camper. She was the first of twelve magical kids that helped create the Camp Kesem UGA family. When our little friends began walking through the door, it was as if our only goal in life was to make camp the most incredible week of their lives. One million points for making a camper smile. One billion points for making them laugh.

I couldn’t have wished for better week. Every planned activity was a blast and every surprise became icing to an already extraordinary experience. Camp Kesem creates a safe haven—a family—for campers and counselors alike. Everyone can be themselves no matter how crazy, or giggly, or goofy. When times get tough, there will always be friends to walk through it beside you. You let me know when entertaining magic tricks and illusions can do all that. Until then, real magic is Camp Kesem.