January 31, 2014
Why I Kesem–Lenny Pepperbottom: “To Spread the Sparkle”
Every now and then at Camp Kesem events, we get asked “Why do you Kesem?” We use this question in the CK community to ask more than just why someone shows up for an awesome week of camp every summer. “Why I Kesem” goes deeper than our not-so-secret addiction to silly camp songs and love of watching the Talent Show acts every summer. “Why I Kesem” is about the story that led us to this amazing organization, and what the counselors and campers have come to mean to us. This spring, we’re spotlighting our counselors and sharing their stories. This week, we feature Lenny Pepperbottom, a senior Science Pre-Professional major from Michigan, who spent the 2013 CKND as our Nature Coordinator. Her favorite Disney movie is The Lion King, which we would interpret as “pretty neat”.
Last summer not long before starting camp, cancer made several appearances in my life in a very short amount of time. My Aunt Lynne and a few close family friends were either recently diagnosed or had recently discovered that their course of treatment wasn’t working. I visited my aunt not long before coming to camp. She asked what I was doing with my summer and I mentioned Kesem, almost in passing because it was so short relative to everything else I was doing. But of all these other things I was doing with my time, she was most interested in Kesem, asking if her grandkids could go, what it entailed, etc. What I remember most was that she told me she was proud of me for going to camp and spending time with these kids.
My aunt passed away this past December shortly after Christmas. That conversation was the last I’d had with her face-to-face. While I was at her funeral, I looked at my bracelets (I usually have a few). On my left wrist, I wear a bracelet that she gave me that day I visited. It had lots of “bling” (her word) on it, which isn’t something I would usually wear. But she asked me to wear it for her, so I kept it. I’m so glad I did. On my right is what looks like a piece of string, but is so much more. During our Empowerment Ceremony at camp, everyone receives a piece of string wrapped around their wrists from the same ball of twine. It symbolizes the unity of Camp Kesem: that we are all connected by our common experience at camp, and the unconditional love and support we provide for each other. Aunt Lynne embodied that same kind of love.
Throughout her treatment, she adopted the mantra “Spread the Sparkle” and I didn’t get the gravity of what it meant until I went to Kesem. I’m privileged to know several people in my life who live to love people, but she was at the top of the list. I have never known someone else who loved people so hard without question. After reflecting on her life and on the last conversation I had with her, I understand why she was so interested in Camp Kesem. At Camp Kesem, we spread the sparkle.