The University of Miami’s Camp Kesem chapter successfully raised over $1,000 on Thursday, March 10 in its Spring Fling fundraiser. At the fundraiser, donors could either pay $5 to pie a Kesem member or $15 to tie-dye a shirt.
“My idea was to get the students on campus who are not even in camp involved, get them to understand what the organization is and what they’re putting money towards and also just have some fun pie-ing us in the face,” said Ishaan Shah, a senior and development coordinator.
Camp Kesem is a national nonprofit organization that supports children who have a parent with a cancer diagnosis or have lost a parent to cancer by providing them with free year-round programs and a week-long summer camp.
Kesem oversees chapters at universities across the country, where in addition to fundraising, student leaders organize programs and work as camp counselors.
“Camp Kesem is really just an opportunity to connect with those that understand you and just support each other and just have fun honestly,” said Lauryn Lima, a junior and director.
“It’s literally so fun and I wish I could explain it in more words than that but it’s by far the best experience I’ve ever had in my life,” Lima continued.
Spring Fling was part of the chapter’s ultimate goal of raising $100,000 by the end of the academic year, all of which goes to the chapter’s year round programming.
Examples of the programming include Friends and Family day where alumni, current counselors and members and Kesem families come together, virtual Cabin Chats where campers can connect with each other from home, Camp Kesem summer camp and Kesem by Your Side gift packages which are provided to campers throughout the year.
The summer camp, which is the main aspect of the organization, is a week-long overnight camp for children ages 6-18 with unique programming for each age group.
Typical activities include arts and crafts, sports, swimming, as well as empowerment activities and time for campers to relax and connect with their peers such as “Cabin Time.”
“The fact that they’re going to camp for a whole week just to have fun, talk and grow past the fact that they’re facing challenges in which their parents might not be with them for their entire lives, I think it’s very admirable and I think because of that i’ve always wanted to stay involved in Camp Kesem,” Shah said.
While fundraising is certainly a large aspect of what the UM chapter of Camp Kesem does, the real priority is supporting children in need with a community where they feel loved and can take a break from the stresses of everyday life.
“It’s not a grieving camp in any way shape or form; it’s just an opportunity to let these kids be kids because they’re forced to grow up way too fast,” Lima said.
“Even though we’re there to support them, you see at the end of the couple days of the camp, how they also make an impact on you and how you’re just so excited to see them again,” Lima continued.
Whether it be through simply supporting campers through fundraising or organizing or an individual relationship founded at camp, Camp Kesem members seem to be consistently learning from the resiliency of their campers.
“Even going through my everyday life I’m really stressed. I’m just like, okay, wait, why are we doing this? These kids, oh my God, they’re so strong. Like if they can do it, I can do it too,” Lima said.
“I know that my Kesem family is always backing me up as well. I’m very glad to say some of my closest friends are in Kesem and I cannot imagine my life without any of them. So it’s just full circle, community support and just knowing that we do have to keep going,” Lima continued.