As a kid I was literally at camp all summer, every summer. Camps were a vital part of my childhood. They helped me grow in areas of confidence, creativity, generosity, and modesty. Camp was like a second reality, a fantasy land where a bunch of singing, smiling, energetic people went each day or for weeks at a time to have the most satisfying time imaginable. At camp you exhausted your mental, social, and physical energies with each go. You gave so much to being there, because it was a group and a place where you felt comfortable, free, and loved.
As high school passed, so did my camp experience. Camp was put on the back burner and studying/school was all I knew. Then one day, I was asked to join someone for an information session for Camp Kesem. I was a casual attendee, only there to accompany a friend. I had heard about Camp Kesem before but no meaning had been put to the name. In my head, it was just a student group like the hundreds of others on campus.
While sitting in the info session a bunch of oddly named people began to speak about the club. It was a camp for kids whose parents had or had cancer. My mind went to both my grandfathers who had passed from cancer before I was old enough to remember anything about them.
And then, they showed a video. A rush of camp love and experiences came back to me like a whirlwind. I was smiling like crazy as the songs, the ropes course, and the fun flashed across the screen and my mind. From then on I needed to join the club.
I don’t think the true meaning of Camp Kesem came to me until I was at camp. The teens were going around saying their favorite ice cream or TV show and we were all laughing together, just like when I had been a camper. In that split second, the reality of what these children and family were going through truly hit me. This was not a normal camp. The fact that we could achieve the happy-go-lucky camp atmosphere of camps I had been to, with children whose lives were riddled with stress, loss, and grief astonished me. This camp was about making them feel loved, normalized, included, and joyful. Above all else, we want these kids to be happy and to have fun even if it is just for a week. Camp Kesem is not just any club or any camp, it is a powerful community of students, staff, and families who exhaust their mental, social, and physical energies with every year and round of camp because we love each other too much to give anything less.
Hello! We’re bringing you the first installment of our Counselor Spotlight blog! This week we’ll hear from Apollo and what Camp Kesem means to him.
It’s difficult to put into words how Camp Kesem has changed my life. Nobody can truly describe or explain that one incredible week of magic; it has to be experienced firsthand. I never imagined myself as a camp counselor, but when I heard about Camp Kesem my freshman year, I was intrigued. I was also scared of overextending myself while still adjusting to college life, so I didn’t join the first opportunity I had. That was my first mistake of college. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I decided to give Camp Kesem a second chance because a very special person convinced me that I had potential to be a great counselor.
The other students in Camp Kesem quickly became some of my best friends, and I really looked forward to Wednesday nights. These people were fun, they were weird, and I fit right in. The day I got my camp name was one of the best days of my life. Our passion for Camp Kesem became a sturdy bond that my peers and I shared. I found meaning and purpose to what I was doing in Camp Kesem. I lost my Dad to a brain tumor when I was 15 and Camp Kesem became an incredible tool in which I could turn that pain and loss into something positive and rewarding. I could take the terrible experience I went through and help kids who are going through horrible experiences of their own.
The night before camp was a mess. I hadn’t packed and I was nervous that the kids wouldn’t like me. I barely slept and before I knew it I was loading suitcases and bags into a bus. The week of camp came and went. And on the last morning I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag because I knew it meant I would have to pack up and go home.
That week I laughed countless times with my campers. I made plenty of silly faces and lost my voice singing tons of silly songs. I had been a Russian cosmonaut with a terrible Russian accent. I played dress up with 7 year olds and I taught 12 year olds how to do the robot. I cried a few times. I looked directly into the eyes of a camper and saw bravery and wisdom beyond his years. I looked out across the dining hall and saw 80 campers who were twice as courageous as they were afraid.
That week, I wanted to be a role model for the campers; to inspire them and give them advice. I wanted to make them laugh and smile. I wanted to show them how wonderful life could be, even in the toughest of times. Instead, the campers inspired me. They gave me advice and made me laugh and smile twice as often as I could return the favor. They showed me how wonderful life is, even in the toughest of times. The magic of Camp Kesem has touched my life profoundly, and it is easily the most rewarding experience of my life. I cherish the Camp Kesem memories I have and eagerly await the ones I will make. I wish college never ended… so I could be a Camp Kesem counselor forever, of course!
It’s been about a week since we returned from camp and there hasn’t been a second where we haven’t thought about all the great times we had. From rock climbing, to canoeing, to alien fashion shows, and noon carnivals it was a week jam packed with activities. There are so many great memories we hold dear that we thought it would be unfair to just share a few of them. So in the spiriti of reliving the magic, here are some of our most treasured moments from camp:
Han Solo, showing us how to strike a pose for the camera.
Nothing better than pancakes for breakfast, compliments of Scout, Brooklyn, and Checkers.
The Green Galaxies spicing up our pre-breakfast routine
Karl Kesem payed us a visit in the Arts and Crafts room.
It has been a truly incredible year for Camp Kesem Berkeley. We hope you experienced the magic in every way possible throughout this year and hope that you join us in the next year to make Camp even more magical.
Back again from Planet Kesem! Hanging out in a new galaxy is tough because of all the spotty wifi connections, but hey we’ll make it work! The last two days have been truly extraordinary. Ranging form a visit from a hypnotist, to water olympics, to an out-of-this-world alien fashion show campers got to have an intergalactic time!
Thursday we also hosted our very first water olympics! The event consisted of a game of water ballon battleship and a water relay race followed by a free-for-all water ballon fight! Many campers and counselors got to partake in the soaking activities and received a gold medal for all their hard work!
As our last day of camp arrived we saw the teens return from an amazing overnight camping trip where they got to explore nature and create a skit for all camp activities. We also held a carnival middle of the day yesterday where our campers got to vie for some space prizes including tattoos, puzzles, and inflatable ballons amongst other things! We can’t wait to be back today and share in all the magic that happened :)
Camp today was a plethora of sports and arts crafts. Our athletically capable sports counselor Han Solo held a game of pool noodle hockey for the orange satellites where campers got to demonstrate their intergalactic sports skills.
Later in the day our campers were able to get ready for their space mission by creating their very own jetpacks. Their creativity spurred them to create them out of 2-liter bottles. It will be a piece of hardware they get to keep for a lifetime.
Here at camp we say magic happens on a day-to-day basis. On Wednesday we held empowerment service for all campers where we got to connect to all campers and counselors about our own reasons for being at camp. We concluded this activity with the luminary service where we all got to display our artwork representing ourselves and those we care about.
Overall our day was full of fun space adventures that we will always remember. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings us.
Tuesday was a fun filled day of canoes, rock climbing, tie dyeing, and a night hike. On the teen side of camp we spent the whole day building our leadership and teamwork skills at the ropes course (pictures to come!).
This year campers will have something special to take home with them in the form of a tie dye pillow case! All of the campers and counselors used their creative juices to create a unique pillow case with some exciting designs!
Some of our younger campers were able to partake in a fun game of musical chairs which included some top hits from One Direction and Carly Rae Jepsen!
We ended the day with an out-of-this world night hike which included star gazing, moon rock discovery, and a display of electric meteor candy! We’re excited to make more fun camp memories today and hope you are enjoying our blog!
Camp Kesem Berkeley is off to a great start! With over 80 campers, camp 2012 is by far the biggest camp we’ve had.
Day one was filled with numerous intergalactic-spectacular activities including (moon) rock wall, canoeing, and amazing program rotations.
We had a great first campfire with s’mores, songs, and impromptu Call Me, Maybe dance parties. Thank you to all of our donors that made campfire possible!
With our second day of camp soon on it’s way we’re