Theatre, Community Service, Music, Food, Travel
October 2, 2016
A: I refuse to admit that Llamas With Hats is probably no longer relevant
B: In all seriousness, not this funky quadruped:
Nor even this guy (HI CARL):
This dude, my favorite C/Karl with more than two legs!
Who is Karl, you ask? If you read my little tagline, you’ll know that he is Camp Kesem’s mascot, so perhaps a more interesting question is: what is Camp Kesem? According to our national website, we are “a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer,” but less formally, we are a family that spans the country and every demographic therein.
I joined Camp Kesem last fall when I applied to be a counselor, still slightly unsure as to what exactly I was signing up for, but seeing an opportunity to volunteer in ways similar to past experiences I had had and which I had not found yet in college. I did a lot of work in high school with Make-a-Wish, and was interested in Camp Kesem mostly because working with cancer patients and their families had had a profound impact on my worldview and I wanted to continue that work from a different perspective. That sounds so cold, right? But even now I can’t find the right words to explain how much this organization has come to mean to me over the past year. When I joined, I hadn’t met any campers. I hadn’t met any even by the time that I claimed the camp name Stitch and stepped into the position of Volunteer Coordinator at the end of the year, agreeing to help train counselors before camp without having actually been there myself (context, we don’t use real names at camp). There’s no way to know without going, but I’ll do my best to share it with you.
I had never been to sleep-away camp myself, so I was a bit nervous to be put in charge of a bunch of kids who had, let alone kids who had been coming to Camp Kesem specifically for five or more years and definitely knew a lot more than I did about how things usually were supposed to work. But by the end of the first day, the two counselors I was with and the girls in our cabin had become my family, complete with a flag, a cabin song, plenty of rivalry and pranks in the works for the boys in our unit (13 year olds are delightful, not even being sarcastic here)!
Not a single one ever sulked, or dragged their feet, or complained, or refused to be a part of the team. Such overwhelmingly positive attitudes are incredible for any group of kids, but especially, I had initially thought for a group of kids living with an ill parent, or living without that parent. I knew their stories before the arrived, and couldn’t even imagine how they would be able to keep going and smile day in and day out when just reading a little slip of paper about the challenges they faced weighed heavy on my chest. I wouldn’t have blamed them for having a hard time at camp. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly was not such an energetic group of outgoing, enthusiastic, boundlessly creative, and carefree girls. They took care of each other, and their younger brothers and sisters, and even in a weird way, me. As the week progressed and they opened up, I found myself doing the same, and it was the most honest, human experience I have ever had. I let them take the lead and show me their world, and it was exquisite. There was more understanding there, and compassion, and appreciation of joy than I think I could find in most people twice their age.
And of course, there was a talent show and gaga ball tournament, capture the flag and a pour-cake-batter-on-your-counselor session, camp songs and s’mores, all that jazz that one expects from a quality summer camp, and even more! Not to brag, but there was a zipline into the lake. Okay, I’m bragging a little bit. But it was very brag-worthy.
(There are way too many pictures to post here, but we had an awesome photographer named Collie who posted a ton of them on our Facebook page, so I would encourage you to pop over there and check them out! https://www.facebook.com/CKUofR/?ref=bookmarks)!
Just then, when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was presented with an incredible opportunity. Our previous director graduated last year, and was looking for two people to replace her as co-directors. It didn’t take long for me to think about it, and before I knew it I was applying, and interviewing, and waiting and hoping because I wanted to serve this community, my family, in as great a capacity as I could, and I saw that potential in the director position. I am unbelievably proud and honored to say that I got it, along with a senior known as Dwayne the Rock Johnson (which makes me feel like I’m constantly hanging out with a celebrity. It’s casual)!
It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve loved every second of it and don’t see that changing any time soon! At this point, I’ve even promised to dye my hair to help raise money for camp this summer. So, if you’re feeling generous and want to see me with blue/green hair… https://donate.kesem.org/LizMinderUR17
And now, you know the story, so go tell the whole wide world this is Kesem Territory :)
Why UR?I went into detail about this in my first blog post here, but for now I'll keep it short and sweet. I wanted a school where I felt at home, with small classes and big opportunities, with both people like me and people who were anything but. I wanted to be able to diversify my interests inside and outside the classroom and build a solid foundation for my career and my life, and Richmond checked off all of those boxes big-time.