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Why Goofy Supports #GivingTuesday

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Marty “Goofy” Shamon

Summit Intern, Camp Kesem

Marty Shamon is Camp Kesem’s Summit Intern, where he acts as one of the lead roles in planning the Camp Kesem National Leadership  Summit, which hosts the coordinators from every Camp Kesem chapter across the country. During his time at the University of Illinois, Marty served as a counselor and co-director, and since graduating has served as a Senior Camp Advisor and now as the Summit Intern.

Cancer does not discriminate. Cancer chooses no religion, gender, belief, age, or color. Cancer feels no compassion. Cancer saddens, hurts, angers, kills, and cancer terrorizes. Cancer changes our lives. Cancer affects us all.

I have lost a parent to cancer. I lost my father on January 25th, 2002 when I was only 10 years old and not ready to lose the one male figure, role model, and father in my life. Cancer changed me from the moment it attacked my father; it took my childhood and it took control of my life.

Everyone knows cancer is a terrible thing; everyone knows that it hurts not just the person with it, but also the ones they love. What everyone might not know is when someone in your family has cancer, it is not something that sits silently in the background. It is not something you just deal with. No, it is something that makes itself known every moment of every day for that family. It takes over your life.

I can hardly remember the amazing memories I had with my father, not because I don’t cherish them with every ounce of my being, but because of the darkness that cancer casts over those memories. What I do remember is when my father went from a full head of hair to nothing, when my mom and older sister would try to hide their hurt and fears from me because I was still a kid, when I would go to his appointments to get his prosthetic leg sized and changed every so often, when I would go with him to physical therapy so he could learn how to walk with the one real leg he had left, when he would tell me his leg was in pain but yet that leg was no longer there and he was just feeling “phantom pains,” when I would fill up a syringe from a vial of his medication and tap out the air bubbles so that I could inject him where I had washed his skin with alcohol pads, when we left the store and he couldn’t remember how to get back home a few blocks away, when my parents would be in the hospital for weeks and my sister and I would stay by our cousins because we still had to go to school even though our father was quickly being taken from us, when I would cry at night praying to God that he wouldn’t take my father from me, and when I felt the absolute devastating heartbreak of walking through those hospital room doors and seeing my entire family in endless tears because that one man that I loved, that I looked up to, that I would give anything up for had passed away moments before I could just say, “I Love You.”

I was 10 years old, and those were the memories that were going to linger around forever. Those are the moments that you live with every day when cancer has affected your family.

During my freshman year at the University of Illinois, I read an email from my advisor about organizations that had general meetings that week. That was where I first read about and was quickly drawn to Camp Kesem’s mission: “To provide children affected by a parent’s cancer with a supportive, lifelong camp community that recognizes and understands their unique needs.” I joined Camp Kesem that week and four years ago at my first week of camp, I told my story for the first time and it changed my life. I looked around the room during our Empowerment Ceremony, where campers and counselors can safely share their stories if they choose to, and I saw a family. Camp Kesem gave me a family that understood what I went through as a child, and was still struggling with as an adult. I could finally open up and know that I was not alone. I owe my life to that day, and I owe my life to Camp Kesem; Camp Kesem brought back what I had lost to my father’s cancer.

Since then, I have held 6 different positions within the organization while trying to make the Magic of Camp Kesem possible for the millions of children just like me. It is a part of my life that I am most proud of and driven by. Camp Kesem gives these invisible victims of cancer a community and a family that understands what they are going through, and it gives them a week where they can stop worrying and just be kids.

I will continue to work to make Camp Kesem possible for all the families that we haven’t reached so far, and in the process will remember a few simple words from our fearless leader and CEO, Jane Saccaro: “No child should have to face cancer. Camp Kesem is here to ensure they never have to face it alone.” This is my Kesem story, and this is why I support Camp Kesem this Giving Tuesday.