There’s no question that Penn State students go above and beyond in the fight against cancer. Recently, some inspirational Penn State students continued that mission by taking part in a unique new initiative.
Camp Kesem Central Pennsylvania, a branch of a national college student-run organization that has helped more than 11,000 children living with a parent with cancer, was established at the end of the spring 2013 semester at Penn State. The free camp ran from August 16-24 in Schweksville, Pa., and provided a peer support network for children affected by a parent’s cancer.
Parth Patel, one of the co-directors of the chapter, heard Camp Kesem’s mission and knew that he wanted to do everything he could possibly do to get it to Penn State.
“I initially decided to start Camp Kesem here because I realized that this population of kids is severely underserved,” Patel said. “We tend to focus on the actual person who has cancer, and we forget that these kids are going through such a tough time. They get their childhood taken away from them.”
But it wasn’t easy to start the camp. During the spring semester, the students won an online competition with 11 other chapters through the Livestrong Foundation to receive $10,000 to begin a chapter of the camp. Although Livestrong gave the chapter the generous donation, the students still had to raise $15,000 more to pay for camp. They worked with an advisory board and held fundraisers, sent letters and emails to family and friends, canned, and even held events like carwashes to raise the money for the camp’s inception, which was this past week from August 16 through August 24.
Senior Aaron Jacobs was one of the camp’s Volunteer Coordinators. He dealt with student recruitment and running training sessions for the 20 counselors who attended it. The student counselors organized themed days and activities, ranging from Harry Potter day to Color Wars to ziplining, while also giving the campers the opportunity to participate in “Cabin Chats” to share their experiences.
“The children entering camp were not the same when they left,” Jacobs said. Overall, 21 campers attended Central Pennsylvania’s first Camp Kesem.
More than 3 million kids are affected by a parent’s cancer every year. According to studies, children whose parents have cancer have a distinct set of needs from other children since they are ostensibly the same as their peers. Camp Kesem is a chance for these kids to get together and share their experiences.
“Going in, we all thought we would be teaching these kids a lot, but our campers ended up becoming our role models,” said Patel.
Penn State’s chapter of Kesem, which means “magic” in Hebrew, is one of 54 campuses nationwide that has brought the camp’s magic to the central Pennsylvania area.
If you’d like to sign your child up or are interested in becoming a counselor yourself, contact [email protected].