‘It makes you want to be a better person’: Camp Kesem volunteer reflects how program has changed him

Senior Adam Eibel (right) spends the majority of his time throughout the year raising money for Camp Kesem, an organization that he said changed his life. Photo Courtesy: Adam Eibel

For senior Adam Eibel, one of the biggest lessons he’s learned is not to take anything for granted. Eibel learned this lesson from children.

He serves as volunteer coordinator at Camp Kesem, a nonprofit national organization operated through college campuses, which runs one to two weeks of summer camp for kids ages 6 to 18 years old who have family members affected by cancer.

“It is a population of kids that are overlooked,” said Eibel, a microbiology and economics double major.

In many ways, Camp Kesem is like any other summer camp. There’s lake time, sports, crafts. Yet the difference comes at the end of every day, when the counselors have what is called “cabin chat.” Eibel said it’s a time when everyone sits down, opens up about anything on their minds and supports each other during difficult moments.

Eibel has been involved with the program since his sophomore year and said it has changed his life.

“No matter what you are going through, if you go to work with kids, they are going to do something to brighten your day,” he said.

Eibel described himself as someone who doesn’t like to sit still. Apart from being a volunteer coordinator at the camp, he is a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, for which he previously served as vice president. He was also vice president of the Interfraternity Council, which oversees 12 fraternity chapters on campus and works with administrators at the university.

“I don’t like to stop,” he said.

However, Eibel’s role at Camp Kesem has taken priority, and other volunteer coordinators at the camp have taken notice.

Brianna Valdes (left) and Adam Eibel (right) are both Volunteer Coordinators for Camp Kesem. Valdes describes Eibel as someone who is always ready to "step up to the plate." Photo Courtesy: Adam Eibel

Senior Brianna Valdes, a fellow Kesem volunteer, said Eibel is always ready to “step up to the plate,” but he remains humble about his contributions to the organization.

“He doesn’t see how great he is even though the people do,” said Valdes, a biochemistry and public health double major.

Eibel said although none of his family members have had cancer, he is able to empathize with the kids and recognize their strength.

“Hearing them talk about what they are going through … You realize that these kids are some of the strongest people you will ever meet,” Eibel said.

Camp Kesem has gained so much attention on campus that Sigma Phi Epsilon chose the organization as its philanthropy for the year and raised $10,000 for the cause in fall 2017, according to the vice president of philanthropy.

“We are giving back childhood,” Eibel said. “Everyone is so positive, and it makes you want to be a better person.”

Students can donate to Camp Kesem here.