Father’s Day Edition: Camp Kesem

My family is big on memories. We’re not very good at taking pictures, but we store a lot of our memories in physical form. Back home we have whole bookcases of photo albums and it’s one way we keep memories alive as we revisit them from time to time.
 
A few years ago, my sister and I gifted a photoshoot to my dad on father’s day. It coincided with my sister’s high school graduation and my undergraduate graduation. Little did we know that it would be one of the last sets of photos where my dad was healthy. A few months later his doctor would inform us he had liver cancer.
 
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photo by SimplyTwo photography, 2007
 
Father’s day and mother’s day are important days for my family. In light of the brevity of life, it’s crucial to seize the moments that we have to celebrate our loved ones. 
 
This is my first father’s day without my dad and it’ll be a bit tough. My dad often quoted Mark Twain to me, saying, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
 
Scary how true that became. I so dearly miss that stubborn wisdom. My sister and I have my dad’s fingerprints on every facet of our lives. It is in memory of my dad on father’s day that we dedicate the following to our dad:
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This year I was fortunate to have a few teammates who played with me in the lighthouse football tournament who worked for an organization called Camp Kesem. A university student run organization who’s sole mission is to serve the needs of children whose parents are fighting cancer.

 
The organization puts on a week long summer camp that allows children of cancer patients to get away for a week. At camp the kids have activities like crafts, sports, outdoor adventures, and cancer coping activities. Each evening ends with cabin chat where there is a safe environment for kids to share about their struggles. The best part is that camp is entirely free for the kids. Each college student helps fundraise for the kids to go by putting on fundraising events and receiving donations. Every counselor is a college student and only a handful on site are graduates.
 
Fighting cancer as a family was tough enough for my family where my sister and I are grown up and could help take care of dad once in a while. I can’t imagine the physical, emotional, and mental toll it would take on a family where kids still needed care. One of my parents’ pastoral friend is battling cancer and has 4 young kids and they immediately came to mind.
 
When I told my mom about this camp, I was surprised to hear that their kids actually went to camp last year. My sister was there with them as they were packing up for the week long camp. She described their excitement and the moment where their smiles totally defied the weighty solemness of home. My teammate R.Falomir told me that kids come to camp waiting the whole year for this and they leave with a renewed sense of self and optimism. I believe it.

With a 2:1 kid to counselor ratio each kid is given the care and attention they need. They’re shown that there are others who are going through the same thing and that they are loved. Not only does this camp serve the kids, but indirectly serves the parents as well who are afforded some time alone at home. 

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 pic stolen from here
 
This year it gives us great joy to send a child to camp kesem. In fact, camp is going on right now as I post this. We are so thankful for people in this world who’s heart bleeds to take care of the young and less fortunate. to camp counselors…we salute you.

If any of you know a child who’s parents are battling cancer and may benefit from this, please check out this website for camps near you. There are dozens of these camps all across the nation.

To the rest of the father’s out there, happy father’s day!

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