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2014 Coming to a Close: Interview with Bojangles & Squirt!

Hello! Bean here. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Camp Kesem Emory’s co-directors Bojangles and Squirt. We talked about Camp Kesem, the leadership summit, cheese, Mr. Rogers, thoughts about this year’s closing, and hopes for the coming years. We hope you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed having this conversation!

 1380486_699968046698314_1532017544_nBojangles, you’ve been a co-director for Camp Kesem Emory for the last three years, and you’re about to graduate soon! That must be exciting, but a little sad at the same time.

It is a little bit sad not only because I’ve done Camp Kesem as a co-director for 3 years and the year before that as an Outreach Coordinator, but also because Camp Kesem has been a really big part of my life and who I am – as cheesy as that may sound. I’ve definitely gained so much in terms of skills and lessons, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself. That this chapter of my life is closing… is really sad, but at the same time, it’s really exciting now that we’ve recently announced Wobbles as our next co-director ! I thought that I’d be really sad sending Wobbles the email telling her she was chosen as co-director, but I was actually really, really excited – more excited than I’ve been in a really long time! I used a lot of exclamation points in that email. I remember seeing both of them come in as freshman, so seeing them transition from freshmen to counselors at camp to where they are now has been really fun to watch.

And Squirt, this is your second year with Camp Kesem, and your first time as a co-director. How would you describe your Camp Kesem experience this year?

I remember meeting with Marzi (our Program Advisor) for the first time at Rise-n-dine at the beginning of the year, and I had all these fears and anxieties: I had no idea what to expect, and then… just being with Marzi seemed like this big, important thing. But after meeting with Marzi again recently and talking about our progress this year, I can see just how much confidence I’ve gained from Camp Kesem. It’s definitely been a different experience compared to last year because I got to experience Camp Kesem grow as a co-director this year. And not just the growth in the number of campers or the money coming in, but the growth in our exec board’s unity and the family dynamic that we have now. So I know this is really cheesy too, but I’m just really proud of Camp Kesem Emory’s growth and our individual growth as well.

So this is off the record, but talking about cheesy things is making me hungry. I could go for a block of cheddar right now. But sorry to interrupt, go on!

What are your most memorable moments from Camp Kesem?

Like before, the only thing I knew about F’real was that her favorite Toy Story was Toy Story 2, which I still can’t get on board with – it’s my least favorite. And she hasn’t seen the Lion King. But now I know her so much better, along with everyone else on the exec board. I think it’s all about the little moments. You know in the movies, there are all these montages of these little things that represent the happiest moments of Camp Kesem for me. It’s not the really big moments when we hit a financial goal or did this really big thing, but I think the things that I will carry with me after graduation are things like F’real saying ridiculous things like “I didn’t sell any cookies, but I made $6!,” or Crumpet and M&Ms tag-teaming and jokingly giving everyone a really hard time, or when Jaguar told everyone he was going commando. Thinking about leaving all this makes me feel sad, but it’s a good sad. Like I’ll probably go home and read quotes by Mr. Rogers and have a good cry. Like that kind of sad.

A lot of us were counselors last year, so I was a little nervous about how we’d incorporate previous counselors and non-counselors onto exec board, but I think if you look at our team now, you can’t tell who has or hasn’t been to camp because we’re all so dedicated and really get what we’re working toward. 

Yeah, if you look at the exec board, we’re these 12 Emory students with different backgrounds and majors who come and sit together for an hour every week. But it’s a really great feeling to have that it’s not like any other club. Here, we definitely have a diversity and cross-campus feel. There’s Jellybean, who’s the frat guy in the B-school, there’s Giggles, who’s the humanities freshman, and Wobbles, who’s a German major. I just think it’s kinda cool how we don’t share any of the same classes, but we all come together.

For me, my favorite moment this year was definitely the road trip to Michigan to attend Camp Kesem’s Leadership Summit. 

I’m still mad about that time when I was the one driving, and everyone else was asleep, and I saw that random cat. It was the only exciting thing that happened for a thousand miles, and  and no one else was awake to see it!

That’s what was awesome about it – that it was such a boring trip, but it had so many amazing moments in it.

After spending time to talk about this year, what do you think might be things we could develop next year? Is there anything you’re excited about? Because you’re returning next year, Squirt, this one’s for you.

I remember awhile back, Marzi gave me objectives for the next two years. We want to have 100 campers next summer, hover around
that, and eventually have two weeks of camp, which has been done by two camps already. I was so petrified by the thought of it, such a lofty goal, before when I first heard it, but now I’m really excited for it. Also, we want to have more CIT things going on next year, throughout the year, and increasing our presence on Emory’s Oxford campus.

Bojangles, this is a question for you. What are your post-graduation plans, and do you see yourself with Camp Kesem in the future?

Being a part of Camp Kesem and also holding a community and social health internship last summer, I know I want be involved with something non-profit and volunteer/community outreach-based. That’s my general plan for after-graduation, so I applied to a few jobs and things that are actually a lot like Camp Kesem – because that’s where I’ve gotten most of the relevant skills that I’ve gained. Camp Kesem has really given me a lot of tangible skills and things I can talk about in an objective, measurable way. I can say that our volunteer base has grown by 400% and that our fundraising has grown by 200% since I’ve been involved.

For the second question, I don’t think I can ever not ​be involved. I think I’m going to apply to be a camp advisor, and the national organization has a way for alumni to give back. They have a “Give back, pay it forward” movement where you can fundraise and half the money will go to your home chapter and the other half will go to creating a new chapter. So I feel like wherever I go, there’ll always be a way for Camp Kesem to exist in my life if I want it to, and yes, I definitely want it to.

The other day, I was sitting on my couch and reading quotes from Mr. Rogers, and I was sobbing about how great Mr. Rogers is. I think one that’s pretty famous is, whenever there’s a tragedy or a disaster, to look for the helpers. And I realized that THERE ARE ALWAYS HELPERS! And crying about that. But that’s always the thing that doesn’t get recognized in the news. And I think I might’ve even connected that to Camp Kesem because there are all these things like cancer diagnoses, the stress and burden on kids’ lives – they have all this going and, and then… camp happens. Seeing kids’ faces during camp or the relief on parents’ faces when they recognize a counselor, I realize that we are those helpers, and I’m so blessed to be a part of that.

Wow so we can tie in anything to Camp Kesem.

Haha yeah that’s (a) the beauty of camp, and (b) the beauty of Mr. Rogers.

That’s actually part of the reason I joined Camp Kesem and the reason I think EVERYONE should be a part of Camp Kesem; it’s because I think Camp Kesem is something that, no matter who I am or what type of knowledge I have about cancer or what background I carry, as long as I’m able to be myself and put a smile on a kid’s face, I can affect someone’s life and do something immediately, this summer. I know my mom gets mad at me sometimes because all I talk about on the phone is Camp Kesem.

I know exactly what you mean! Like my parents call me, and I give them a recap about what’s going on and everything, and then they’re like… but how are classes? But everything’s just about camp.

Bojangles, this is actually a question I have for you. Is there something that you’d want to see when you came back in a year or two?

Hmm… I’d say I’m really looking forward to just seeing Camp Kesem grow on campus, and this is something that’s happening already, so it’s not like something I think might or might not happen. I’m just excited to see how much more we can grow Camp Kesem in terms of its development and presence. I can’t wait to see that happen.


“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

-Fred Rogers