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Counselor Feature: Pluto

Hey everyone! 

Our next installment of  the Counselor Feature series is from Paige Van Kampen, or Pluto, a junior and one of the wonderful Student Support coordinators of the UMich chapter.

Enjoy, and happy (almost) end of the semester! 



Obviously the student leaders of Camp Kesem are involved for the campers, but I think it’s safe to say that this organization is one of the most positive experiences for the counselors, as well. I got involved with Kesem right away in the fall of my freshman year, and I knew right away with all the friendly, loving people that I had chosen the right organization. I quickly became more passionate about Camp Kesem, eventually becoming a unit leader and now a member of the coordinator board. Little did I know, though, Camp Kesem was going to help me in more ways than just helping kids, making friends and getting involved on campus.

My younger sister Erin passed away when she was five from something called Zellweger Syndrome. I was so confused and distraught as a child as to why this had happened to her so young, and although she didn’t have cancer, Kesem has helped me deal with the everlasting trauma of this event. I wish more than anything that I had had something like Camp Kesem when I was a child, because similar to what these campers experience, nobody understood what had happened to my family. I was forced to quickly grow up at the age of seven; taking on more responsibilities than any child should have to at that age, not to mention the emotional effects. Almost every single Kesem camper has experienced this as well, but the positive outlook these kids have at camp makes me feel so safe in the camp environment. Although we’ve all experienced one hardship or another, we still have the ability to be happy and have fun together no matter what.

Seeing how much these kids go from having the time of their lives together to being a shoulder for another to cry on has given me such hope. I never had someone there supporting me while I dealt with this huge loss like these kids do for each other, and it is incredible to watch them progressively feel so empowered by this experience. I truly do not think I have ever felt as proud as I do when I’m at camp and see all of the campers opening up to each other and creating one huge unified support group.

These kids have changed my life for the better, yet all their parents do is thank us for helping them. They have no idea how much their kids shape our lives. This is my official thank you to all the Kesem families out there, because your children have made me realize that although getting through a family struggle such as this doesn’t get easier, it is a heck of a lot more bearable with the support of Kesem.