Kesem at Tufts University hosted their annual fall Friends and Family Day in the Aidekman Arts Center on Nov. 5. A chapter of the national organization Camp Kesem, Kesem at Tufts offers programming to support children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer, such as year-long support services and a free, week-long camp each summer.
Club member and sophomore Josie Miller described Tufts’ recent Friends and Family Day as “a way to touch base with some of the families of children that we’re still supporting […] throughout the year.” During the event, club members played games such as Jeopardy and charades with the families in attendance as well as other bonding activities.
“We get a lot more people for our spring Friends and Family Day because they’ve all signed up for camp at this point,” she explained.
Kesem at Tufts is still a relatively new chapter of the organization with this year marking the second time that Tufts hosted the summer camp. During the first year, ten kids attended the camp, and since then, numbers have grown to 21 participants who come from upstate New York and different regions of Massachusetts. Senior and co-director of Kesem at Tufts, Daisy Jasso explained that the camp is free for families and counselors because of the students’ fundraising efforts.
Jasso explained that their “goal is mainly to provide kids with a space for them to be kids again.”
“We also have more serious days where we talk about why we’re there and how to support each other,” Jasso said. “We call it empowerment day.”
Serena Bray, one of the attendees and the mother of two daughters who attended camp this summer, shared her experience with Camp Kesem. She first found out about the program when her husband was diagnosed with cancer and receiving treatment.
“There was a little brochure in the waiting area. And when I looked at it, I thought, wow, that’s amazing that a lot of the camp counselors are kids who have gone through the camp, who have had a parent go through either cancer treatment or foster care,” Bray said.
Bray explained that kids often shy away from sharing their feelings about a parent having cancer, explaining the need for them to have people with similar experiences to talk to.
“It is not only good for the kids to meet other kids who may or may not have gone through something similar, but I told [my daughter] one day, you might also be a counselor for other kids that are going through something difficult,” she said.
Miller spoke about her experience joining the club just this year, explaining that the board of 13 members meets every other week for an hour to plan events.
“It’s more close-knit than I thought,” she explained. “I’ve already met new friends through it. It’s been really cool, and I can’t wait for the actual camp to see the impact. It’s clear that everyone here is really dedicated and really cares about what they do.”
Jasso shared her own experience with the camp. She got involved with Camp Kesem because cancer has affected her family and her brother had worked with Camp Kesem at a different university. Jasso described working at the camp as an “empowering experience to both volunteer at the camp and just throughout the year, knowing that you’re working so hard towards one goal and then seeing kids happy at camp is probably one of the best emotions.”
“I always love to say that you don’t know Kesem magic until you go to camp,” she said.