This story is reprinted from FresnoState Magazine, Fall/Winter 2017 edition.
In her third year as a volunteer counselor at Camp Kesem, a free, week-long camp for kids who have a parent affected by cancer, Hailee Ramont says the experience is indescribable.
“Kesem actually means magic, and that’s what I tell people right away. Camp Kesem is a place where I can go with my campers and they can open up and tell stories that they might not be able to share at home.”
Ramont’s father was diagnosed with cancer when she was young, and she didn’t have a support system like Camp Kesem. So when she learned about the camp as a Fresno State student, she jumped at the chance to volunteer. “In that moment I decided this is my chance to give back and be that person for a little kid when I didn’t have that person. So I joined Camp Kesem and was able to be that inspirational person — so I thought. But then in coming every year, I’m the one who is inspired.”
Campers are able to share stories and relate to each other in a safe environment, while playing games, singing and bonding with people who understand their challenges.
It takes about $500 per camper to fund the week-long activities, and counselors work year-round to raise money so kids ages 6 to 16 can attend for free.
Ramont, who’s now pursuing her master’s in speech-language pathology at Fresno State, says the bonds created at camp are lasting.
“This isn’t just a one-week experience. Camp Kesem, once you’re involved, it is a family.”
All photos courtesy of FresnoState Magazine.