Camp Kesem at BYU, an organization dedicated to helping children through and beyond their parents’ cancer, will have its Make the Magic event on Friday, March 27, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Arbor Manor.
The Make the Magic fundraiser is a benefit dinner with “great food and great people,” according to third-year camp volunteer Brittani Elkington. She said guests will hear from children and families involved in Kesem as well as student leaders who help run the program at BYU.
Funds raised will help provide year-long peer support and send 120 children to camp Aug. 10–16. The event will include a dinner, information and speakers. LDS Sunday School General Board member Ann Madsen will be this year’s keynote speaker.
Kristine Jolley, a student from Vernal, Utah, said when she first came to BYU, she wanted to be part of something she could tell her kids about.
“I knew from the first day of camp that I found the college experience which I will tell my kids and anyone who asks what I did in college. I found a feeling of magic, love and joy …”
Camp Kesem recognizes and embraces children whose parents have cancer. It provides a lifelong peer-support network for these children through free summer camps that are led by passionate college student volunteers across the country.
The volunteers’ mission is to “Let them Be Kids.” A quote from the organization’s Facebook page says, “When parents are diagnosed with cancer, the children are diagnosed too. To think they are separate is a lie.”
Elkington said this program has completely shaped who she is as a person. “It is my world,” Elkington said, “and has shifted my career path toward nonprofits so I can continue to work with organizations like Kesem.”
The camp was founded in 2008 and supports the Intermountain West community. Camp Kesem at BYU is operated by 60 student volunteers and serves 120 of campers ages 6–16 each year. Children at camp choose a nickname to symbolize their transition from a stressful home environment to a week of fun.
Camp Kesem PR representatives Kyle Hener and Hannah Shawgo said “the whole purpose of Kesem is to allow these kids a week every year to just be kids, to get away from the stress and fears of home and to connect with other kids who know exactly what they are going through because they have been through it themselves.”
Elkington said the camp involves everything from arts and crafts to zip lining to swimming to team building. “Some of the favorite activities from last year were the nerf gun wars, the concert by Steff and the Articles and ice cream sundaes made in your mouth,” she said. “The favorites every year are the huge water fight and the dance party.”
Countless families have found joy in Camp Kesem. Campers such as Indian and Nutella, who lost their mother to cancer this last year, will benefit from funds raised during this inspirational evening. Camp has been a refuge and a place of strength.
Camp Kesem will serve nearly 4,000 children this summer. The group actively fundraises, with previous events involving Pizza Pie Cafe, Panda Express, Alex and Ani bracelets, car washes, chocolate Valentine’s Day roses and benefit concerts. Their goal is to raise $6,000 with this event.
Camp Kesem currently exists at 63 chapters in 29 states and operates off donations and community support. For more information on Camp Kesem, please visit www.campkesem.org, facebook.com/campkesembyu, and @CampKesem on Twitter and Instagram.
“I went into camp expecting to help them,” Jolley said, “but those kids healed me in areas I didn’t know need healing. Camp Kesem is seriously one of the best places you can be. You are with some of the best peers and kids in one place. And you don’t understand unless you ‘catch the magic.'”