Until There’s a Cure, There’s a Camp

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 7, 2017) — Not every story has a happy ending, but one University of Kentucky student organization is trying to bring joy to lives that have been rocked by cancer.

Camp Kesem organized a chapter at UK last year. The student organization strives to brighten the lives of children who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer. Camp Kesem provides children with year-round emotional support and a free weeklong summer camp that gives the children back the childhood that cancer stole.

The prevalence of service-based student organizations has increased at UK. Students feel eager to give back to the community. Camp Kesem exemplifies one of the many service-based student organizations that illustrates the university’s commitment to community engagement.

“We are lucky enough to be in a community that is already very involved with a lot of amazing established causes,” said Abigail Woolums, a UK sophomore and development coordinator for the university’s Camp Kesem chapter.  

Camp Kesem stands as the largest national organization dedicated to serving children with a parent who has been impacted by cancer. UK's Camp Kesem leaders believe the opportunity to work with this population will spark members of the community to become more involved. 

“I think that as our student volunteer body grows, so will Camp Kesem’s impact in the greater Lexington community,” said Sarah Landers, UK senior and founder of UK’s Camp Kesem chapter.

Landers has seen the organization grow from the ground up and continues to help make a name for Camp Kesem at UK.

College students often prove to be a difficult population to recruit for philanthropic pursuits, but those involved with Camp Kesem remain proud of the work they put in.

UK encourages students to serve their campus and community. Camp Kesem’s student leaders have been tested with challenging and emotional events that many organizations will never face. The experiences that Landers has gained through her leadership role has positively impacted her personal and professional development.

“I have gained resiliency in watching my campers brave their fears and live with something so terrible, but still wake up smiling,” Landers said.

Many organizations implement a variety of marketing and fundraising efforts, but it is rare to find a student organization like Camp Kesem that is actively seeking doctors, nurses and cancer support group communities, Landers said. The medical connections gained through Camp Kesem’s outreach connects the chapter with potential families.

Parents are willing to travel long distances in order for their child to attend a week of joy. Families from Kentucky and surrounding states make the trip to Lexington to experience the magic of a Camp Kesem camp. Kentucky’s chapter welcomed 17 campers at their first official camp last summer. The chapter is preparing to expand in their second year.

“We are planning for 40 campers this year, so there will be several new faces,” Landers said.

Kentucky’s chapter will nearly double the number of campers it received last year when their next camp kicks off in July 2018. The increased interest is a positive sign for the new organization. Camp Kesem’s student leaders are optimistic about the organization’s future on the UK's campus.

“I hope our organization is well-known enough on campus and in the Lexington community that we can find support to run camps with over 100 kids,” Woolums said.

Organizers said the future of UK’s Camp Kesem chapter is bright. Students who succeed as current leaders will have to emulate the passion and work ethic that allowed Kentucky’s chapter to get off the ground.

“We will never stop growing and spreading the magic,” Landers said.

Not every story has a happy ending, but every story has extraordinary people that vow to make a change in the world. UK’s Camp Kesem chapter will be making the lives of children as magical as they can be for many years to come. 

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue