Camp Kesem continues growth with first dinner

This Saturday, Camp Kesem held its first annual Make the Magic dinner at the Caruso Catholic Center.

The event served to both raise awareness of the organization’s mission and to fundraise for a weeklong camp for children whose parents are battling or have battled cancer.

“Since a lot of [the families] have expensive medical bills, they might not be able to pay for the camp otherwise.  By providing them this opportunity to go for free, it’s really beneficial to the kids,” said Sarah Loh, volunteer coordinator for Camp Kesem USC.

The event featured a cocktail hour in the Caruso Center courtyard, where guests in attendance mingled with student counselors and participated in a silent auction which helped raise money for the camp.

USC’s Camp Kesem chapter was founded in 2012 and was able to take 26 kids to camp this past summer. According to the national Camp Kesem website, there are more than 3 million children per year affected by a parent’s cancer. This year, by putting on events such as Make the Magic and pancake nights on The Row, Kesem hopes to raise $41,000  to bring twice as many kids this year. So far, Camp Kesem has raised about half of its goal. Because the organization is so new, it relies on donations from generous supporters to fund camp every summer.

“Camp Kesem started last year at USC … so we don’t have a lot of resources or outside funding that we can go to,” said Jehan Bista, a Camp Kesem counselor.

Many of the counselors shared their personal Camp Kesem stories during Make the Magic, including freshman Claire Witzke, who was a camper at Camp Kesem at Stanford and is now a counselor at Camp Kesem.

“Though the first week of camp was overwhelming, there was a weird sense of ease knowing that every camper had gone through a very similar experience to mine,” Witzke said. “They knew the anxiety of waiting for test results and the fear that the cancer had come back … Camp Kesem was one of the best thing that ever happened to me.”

During camp, kids get the chance to participate in a plethora of activities, both fun and supportive. One such activity is “Cabin Chats,” during which children are able to tell their stories to one another.

This year, Make the Magic welcomed 60 guests, including friends and family of the counselors and local hospital workers.

Though any organization’s event faces hardships within the first few years of existence, Camp Kesem has succeeded in overcoming the stigma of being a new organization and is growing at an exponential pace.