This story is reprinted from FresnoState MagazineFall/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.”

Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson / FresnoState Magazine

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.

Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson / FresnoState Magazine

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.