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What Camp Kesem Means to Me: A Counselor’s Perspective

For those of you that follow our blog intensely, you may have noticed that we have been away for awhile.  BUT WE’RE BACK!!!  We are starting a three part series that will run over the next couple of months about what Camp Kesem means to our counselors, parents and campers.  

Today, we focus on our CKIU counselors.  Here is what camp means to Scully and Squirrel.  

Why Do I Kesem? by Scully

I transferred to Indiana University my sophomore year from a school that had roughly 5,700 undergraduate students. As you can imagine, the enormity of IU was a lot for me to take in. Luckily, I had learned about Camp Kesem from my twin sister, Sunshine, who had joined her freshman year at IU. Upon starting my sophomore year, I immediately got involved with Camp Kesem. I was looking for a way to make this massive university seem just a little smaller. I never expected for that one decision – to follow in my sister’s footsteps and join CK – to completely shape not only my IU experience but also who I am as a person.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Camp Kesem is this: family. The amazing students that are a part of this organization became not only my friends but also my family at school. I have never been a part of a group of people that is more supportive of one another or more passionate about giving their time in service of others. The mission of Camp Kesem, to serve children who have a parent of has or has had cancer, hits close to home for me because so many friends and family members have been affected by this disease. I’ve seen firsthand what can happen to families coping with cancer and I knew that I wanted to do whatever possible to help.

As clichéd as it sounds, my first summer being a counselor changed my life. The families I had the chance to meet and the kids I got to spend the week with showed me more strength than I have ever seen before – I am honestly in awe of their courage. I would not be who I am today without these experiences. The fall after my first year of camp, I found out that someone incredibly close to me had been diagnosed with cancer. The lessons I learned from my orange unit girls and the strength they give me are what help me cope with that to this day.

I could go on and on about the reasons that I Kesem and what camp has meant to me, but I’ll say it simply:

– I Kesem for the kids who have to grow up too soon

– I Kesem for the strongest families I know

– I Kesem for my orange girls – Nilly, Zebby, Iz-it, Beetle, and Scar

– I Kesem to find the magic

CK Love,


Why I Kesem by Squirrel

I have been a proud member and counselor at Camp Kesem IU since my freshman year.  Before I get into why I keep coming back, I wanted to talk about what drew me to CK in the first place.  Six years ago, when I was a sophomore in high school, one of my close friends lost her father to cancer. I watched as my friend, her 12-year-old sister and her mother struggled through coping with the loss of a loved one. The support and comfort that Kesem provides to families is what drew me in. I’ve seen first hand how difficult navigating cancer alone can be for a family, and Camp Kesem provides much needed support and community.

I truly believe that Camp Kesem’s impact goes beyond the week of camp. The community and love lasts throughout the year not just for the counselors, who all go to college together, but also for the families. We’re all connected via Facebook, cell phones, reunions, email, snail mail, etc. I know that no matter where life takes me I will always have the support of the amazing people following me.

Now that I’m a senior, I’ve had to start doing these really terrible things called job interviews. During my last interview I was asked what one thing or moment has had the greatest affect on me in the last 4-5 years; without hesitation I said Camp Kesem. No other decision has had such a lasting, positive impact on me. Camp Kesem has given me a second family, a group of people who I can go to no matter what.  The families that I’ve met and the campers that I love are my inspiration to do my best and work my hardest every day. Often when I tell people about my work with Camp Kesem they tell me that it’s so great what I’m doing for our kids, and that I’m making a difference in their lives. What people outside of Camp Kesem fail to see is the impact that this week has on the counselors. These kids and their families have had a greater impact on my life than nearly any other single event or person.  Their strength and joy is my inspiration and my motivation to do my best every day.

So to answer the question, why do I Kesem, I have to say it’s for them, of course. The campers are the driving force behind what makes Camp Kesem so magical. We are here for them, and we work tirelessly all year long to make this summer’s Camp Kesem more magical than it was the year before.  But I’m also here for the support and love this community gives me. The high I get from a week at camp is indescribable. I come home after every summer feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted but I would give any amount of sleep to be back in my cabin with my kids. Camp Kesem has been here for me throughout my college career and I know that the love and support I’ve found here will follow me throughout my life.  What makes Camp Kesem so magical is the constant give and take of love and support between the families and the counselors. And that is why I Kesem.

Check back next month to hear how our CKIU parents feel about Kesem. #CKLOVE #FTOK