Camp Kesem isn’t just a summer camp—it’s much more. It’s a unique organization that offers a week filled with fun activities and empowerment to kids who have a family member with cancer. This year, Seattle University was elected via online votes as one of 10 universities in the country to host the camp in summer of 2018.
CECI ESTELA • THE SPECTATOR
Camp Kesem’s logo
Camp Kesem would not have made it to Seattle U if it weren’t for a few passionate leaders who worked relentlessly to get our school nominated and selected for hosting. One of these students is Johanna Rapport, a sophomore nursing major. Rapport was a camper at Kesem at the University of California Berkeley branch. After aging out of the camp at 16, she became a counselor in training for two years. She described the lifelong impact the camp has had on her.
“I had never been to a camp before Kesem. At first I was skeptical and a bit uncomfortable,” Rapport said. “But it was such a safe, welcoming, and fun environment that I overcame these initial feelings and grew to love the camp.”
She described Kesem as a place of hope that reminds kids that they aren’t alone. The camp is open to children between the ages of six and 16. It is led by volunteer college student leaders and is hosted at locations across the country. Last year, more than 6,000 children attended.
The camp offers many fun activities like sports, crafts and goofy games. Rapport described a camp activity called the “Messy Olympics,” where counselors sit in pools and let the kids make them into sundaes with ice cream, chocolate syrup and the works.
Steve Mancia is another student who worked on getting Kesem to Seattle U.
“The camp allows kids to be kids again and let go of their problems and have fun and connect with each other,” Mancia said.
Camp Kesem is also unique for its empowerment activities that campers and counselors take part in, such as a bonding experience where all of the kids sit in a circle and pass around a ball of yarn. Each kid wraps the yarn around their wrist and says what they like about Camp Kesem or what it means to them. Rapport described this as a safe time to share where many emotions come out.
“When I saw the camp counselors crying with us, I realized that crying is not a sign of weakness, it is simply an expression. I felt safe to show my emotions along with the other campers and counselors,” Rapport said.
The event at Seattle U this summer will show the kids they aren’t alone. It often leads to lifelong friendships among campers and counselors.
Another student who has been influential in getting Kesem to Seattle U is Roisin Sleven, a junior biology major. Sleven was a counselor in training (CIT) at one of the first chapters of the camp at UC Berkeley. She will also help prepare Seattle U to host Camp Kesem.
The preparation this quarter and the process is like building a business. She and other leaders will have to find sponsors, look over applications from student leaders, train the student leaders, plan the camp and make sure everything is all set up. A campus club has been created to prepare and run Camp Kesem.
Sleven has high hopes for the upcoming camp, saying that Seattle U has been very supportive and involved in the process of getting our school nominated and selected. In fact, Seattle U was the smallest school to be selected to host the camp; the next smallest school had a population of around 15,000 students.
Seattle U ended up in fifth place—an unexpected accomplishment. Sleven said that she was becoming worried the school would not be selected, but within the last hour of voting Seattle U jumped from the tenth to fifth spot. Rapport, Roisin and Mancia all mirrored the sentiment that Seattle U and the city of Seattle is a caring and supportive community.
Applications to volunteer at Camp Kesem will be available soon for anyone who wants to become involved.
“The camp is a fantastic thing to get involved in, and you can choose your level of involvement,” Sleven said. “It is a great opportunity for college students to gain business experience and become involved in a nationwide network. Also, it is a concrete way to make a positive difference in kids’ lives.”
Our school’s mission statement says that “Seattle University is dedicated to educating the whole person, to professional formation, and to empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” Based on this, it only seems fitting that we are to host a camp that offers empowerment to our community and professional leadership opportunities to students.
Specific dates for when Camp Kesem Seattle University is expected to be held at Seattle U will be announced soon.
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