UM’s Camp Kesem raises thousands as members seek to reach more campers

Amid COVID-19, the University of Miami Camp Kesem is continuing to “Make The Magic” happen for it campers with virtual forms of connecting and fundraising.

Camp Kesem, a national organization with chapters at colleges across the country, aims to bring community to children whose parents or guardians have been afflicted with cancer. Under normal circumstances, students involved in UM’s chapter spend the year fundraising and getting ready for their main event: a 10-day long camp spent playing games and building relationships with campers.

This year, UM members are finding ways to run things remotely.

Members of UM's Camp Kesem raise money during their annual Make The Magic gala in 2020.
Members of UM's Camp Kesem raise money during their annual Make The Magic gala in 2020. Photo credit: Facebook, UM Camp Kesem

On April 10, UM’s Camp Kesem chapter raised more than $15,000 at its annual Make the Magic gala fundraiser, which will be used to fund the events Kesem holds throughout the year. Kesem members and affiliates bid on items from private wine tasting classes to a $5,000 painting by Peter Studl.

“You directly see the work that we’re doing and what we’re using the money for,” said Alexander Sanjurjo, a senior neuroscience major and one of the co-directors of UM’s Camp Kesem chapter. “It’s really different from any other organizations where you donate your money and don’t really know what happens to it.”

UM’s Camp Kesem chapter raises between $100,000 and $150,000 every year to host its camps. Sanjurjo said the money this year will help Kesem expand into new areas.

“This year we’re looking into new communities and trying to involve more campers,” he said.

At Make The Magic, Kesem volunteers answered questions about the organization’s mission in Zoom breakout rooms with supporters. The annual fundraising gala also featured a Zoom watch party and interactive events, as well as a silent-auction.

UM students and campers in 2019.
UM students and campers in 2019. Photo credit: Facebook, UM Camp Kesem

“We got to hear from a lot of different perspectives, from campers, campers turned counselors, to caregivers of Kesem campers,” said Cody Kline, a graduated senior who majoring in elementary education and psychology, and another co-director of UM’s Camp Kesem chapter.

Sanjurjo said that Kesem has hundreds of members, counselors and volunteers but is always looking to expand.

“We’re always looking to recruit interested Kesem members, and give them the proper resources and support to fundraise,” Sanjurjo said. “We have our own fundraising and development committee that new members can join if they’re interested.”

In addition, Kesem hosts a monthly virtual “Cabin Chat,” an event where youth campers can connect with each other and current Kesem student leaders to speak about their shared experiences. Kline said it serves as a space where kids can both vent and have fun with the rest of their Kesem family.

“Cabin chats are about letting our campers take the floor and talk about anything they want to,” Kline said. “It allows our campers to have those connections with children who are similar to them, and going through similar experiences.”

At their most recent Cabin Chat, campers were able to talk to the rest of the Kesem family about a wide variety of topics, from how their day went to what store they would most want to spend the night in. Kesem counselors also posed different questions to campers throughout the event, such discussing favorite foods and colors. Students who recently joined Kesem were invited to attend the Cabin Chat and shadow current Kesem counselors.

Kline said that any interested UM students are welcome to attend their Cabin Chats and join the Camp Kesem family, with the upcoming virtual Cabin Chat on April 22 at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a great way of getting an initial idea of what Kesem is all about. You can come and meet other campers or meet our counselors to see and share your experiences with them, and just have a fun time,” Kline said.

Students interested in getting involved with Camp Kesem can contact miami.volunteer@campkesem.org and follow Camp Kesem Miami on either Facebook or Instagram. Interested students can also checkout the Member Handbook for all details here: https://rb.gy/yjlw13