Camp Kesem gala exceeds fundraising goal by over $4,000

Make the Magic organizers celebrate surpassing their fundraising goal by over $4,000.
Make the Magic organizers celebrate surpassing their fundraising goal by over $4,000. Photo credit: Sofia Sneathen

Camp Kesem’s annual Make the Magic gala raised $24,307 Saturday night, breaking its $20,000 goal in its first in-person event in two years.

The money will go towards Camp Kesem’s annual week-long summer program for kids who have parents with cancer.

“Seeing how much money we were able to raise tonight was amazing. Seeing the amount of people that came and showed out and shared the love for Kesem was awesome,” said Chelsey ‘Aqua’ Guastucci, an alumni marketing and public relations chair in Camp Kesem.

In addition to Camp Kesem’s annual weeklong summer program, the money will help Camp Kesem chapters host Friends + Family days where campers visit counselors, create packages for the children and provide general support services.

Camp Kesem serves upwards of 10,000 campers annually.

“Kesem helped me through that mental state of ‘you don’t know what tomorrow is going to be like,” said Anabelle Cejas, Camp Kesem camper and a speaker at Make the Magic. “I’m very grateful for Kesem for helping me through all of that. It’s just been a huge impact”

Many current counselors of Camp Kesem were once campers or have been impacted by cancer.

Gala attendees participate in the paddle raise to raise money for Camp Kesem’s upcoming camp session in June.
Gala attendees participate in the paddle raise to raise money for Camp Kesem’s upcoming camp session in June. Photo credit: Sofia Sneathen

“Being a child whose parent did pass away from cancer when I was in high school, I really wish I had an organization like Camp Kesem,” said Madison Mutzman, Make the Magic coordinator. “It’s that missing part of me that I was looking for. I’m glad that we all get to do that now for the children that we support.”

According to Camp Kesem’s parent website, five million children are coping with a parent’s cancer diagnosis. These children are “at risk of experiencing increased anxiety, emotional isolation, loss of social interest and/or feelings of hopelessness.”

Camp Kesem’s signature events are designed to help campers prevent or overcome these obstacles often encountered.

For example, Kesem’s Empowerment Ceremony, which occurs on the last day of camp, strengthens connections between campers. Participants close their eyes and tap the shoulders of other campers who impacted them or they became closer with.

“Everyone is sitting there, crying, because it shows how much of an impact you’ve made on your campers, on your fellow counselors,” Guastucci said. “That’s the whole point of Kesem itself to support everyone through what they’re going through.”

The event included Camp Kesem traditions, such as the sing-a-long “Hey Burrito,” speeches from alumni and a camper, a silent auction of artwork, tickets and other items and a paddleboard donation where some audience members donated up to $1,000.

Gala attendees browse the silent auction. All silent auction items were donated to Camp Kesem.
Gala attendees browse the silent auction. All silent auction items were donated to Camp Kesem. Photo credit: Sofia Sneathen

Since Camp Kesem is a nonprofit, it relies on events like UM’s Make the Magic to support its campers. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented its own challenges.

“From going online back to in person has been a challenge because we’ve lost some engagement with having to move online,” Guastucci said.

Without funds, Camp Kesem can’t enroll campers. Without campers, Camp Kesem can’t perform its other services, such as outreach to families.

“If we don’t have campers, then our committee doesn’t exist because we are in charge of talking to families,” said Emily Perez, a sophomore and member of the Outreach Committee. “If we don’t have enough funds that could potentially affect our funding for the activities.”