“I think what makes Camp Kesem so special are the people. It’s not just any group of people, but people that genuinely care.” Those are the words of a camp counselor, nicknamed Paris-Texas, about why Camp Kesem is so special compared to other camps.
Kesem at Long Beach State is part of a national organization that was founded in 2000 at Stanford University. Kesem at Long Beach State itself was recently created in 2018, where they provide support for children in the Long Beach community by providing year-long peer support earmarked by a week-long summer camp that takes place annually.
About Kesem itself, Kesem helps the population of children who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer, and Kesem is the largest organization nationwide dedicated to this specific population. Kesem’s main program is Camp Kesem, which offers a free summer camp for children ages 6-18 who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer. In 2020 alone, Kesem served over 12,000 children coast-to-coast, funded by donations from individuals and corporations such as from the Port of Long Beach. However, due to COVID-19, the flagship program had been made into a virtual camp called Kesem at Home for the years of 2020 and 2021. But with restrictions lightening up for COVID-19, Kesem at Long Beach State was able to return to in-person camp.
The chapter at Long Beach State is operated by about 40 student volunteers and club members and aimed to serve about 35 campers. Camp Kesem at Long Beach State is entirely student run who worked year long to plan and fundraised for an impactful week of camp that took place this year from June 26th to July 1st.
Children who attended Camp Kesem at Long Beach State participated in a host of fun activities that included tie-dyeing, “Messy Games”, “Empowerment, and much more. Every night, there would be “Cabin Chats” where a safe space was provided for campers and counselors alike to open up to one another about their personal experiences.
Paris-Texas would go on to say that “The counselors in this club love people. It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, what has happened to them, they are loved in this camp. I have been fortunate enough to have been able to attend other camps, and although they were good, they weren’t like Kesem. I felt a real attachment to Kesem… I know it’s a bit played out, but I felt like I was with family. A true genuine connection.”
As the photographer myself, I personally felt that I was lucky to be able to capture such genuine moments of sincere connections between the campers and the counselors. Though connected by the tragic factor of cancer, these campers and counselors bond together to overcome their past experiences and come out as empowered and better people.