Why I Kesem: Tonks–”For the Love”

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 Tonks, a sophomore Marketing and Environmental Science major from Orono, MN. Nymphadora was one of the co-chairs of our Make the Magic fundraiser this year and a member of the superior day group of CKND, the Ligers. Her favorite Disney movie is Toy Story, and although she is nicknamed Tonks, she is not a Metamorphmagus (about which we are sad). Tonks would also like to reiterate that she is not Canadian.

I applied for camp completely on a whim. In the bottom corner of Pdub’s “Stall Street Journal” posted inside every bathroom door, I found a small blurb about camp that said, “Do you like kids? Do you like being outside? Join Camp Kesem!” So I did.

After a whirlwind summer of traveling, volunteering, and family time, I thought I was more than prepared for another week of summer fun. I was wrong. Sure, I had grown up doing campy things and frolicking in the outdoors with my multitude of neighbors and siblings…but cancer? No way, man. I realize now just how lucky I am that my immediate family has remained untouched by it. Cancer wasn’t what brought me to camp; fun was. I loved the idea of bringing joy to campers who really needed summer smiles.

And for a while, camp was all fun and games. We ventured with the kiddos to various activities and played outside and everything was happy. Together, we thrived in an environment of childish play, where kids of all ages who had grown up too quickly could be kids again. It didn’t seem like they were coming from homes so vastly different from my own after all.

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The empowerment ceremony changed that perception. The ceremony’s setting, candlelit boats on the lake and a quickly fading sunset, captured the solemn yet supportive atmosphere of the counselors and campers gathered in solidarity. As I watched the youngest campers console each other and my newfound counselor friends succumb to their tears, my heart broke. But it smiled, too, because in the midst of all the feelings, out of the depths of the campers’ despair, there was true camaraderie. There was understanding. There was compassion and love and hope and hugs. But undeniably, there was also great sadness. The strength of these kids and that of my fellow counselors inspires me to more deeply cherish the blessing of my family and friends each day.

I think that’s why I Kesem: for simple childlike love. I do like kids, and I do like being outside, but I think the essence of this experience is love. For the love of swim time, bracelets, Camp Olympics, talent shows, and Pirate Baseball. For the love of gaga games and Quidditch. For feet-on-bed-time, matchmaking, and late-night counselor meetings with phenomenal CK trail mix. For the heartbreaking smiles. But mostly, for the love of the kiddos and the counselors and the whole camp family. I’ll always be grateful for the “Stall Street Journal” ad that launched my journey to the Kesem community, and I can’t wait to go back this year!

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