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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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June 16, 2024

TAMU Camp Kesem chapter finishes strong

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Photo by Courtesy

Texas A&M students support the children of cancer victims by their involvement in Camp Kesem. 

One hundred and twenty-five children ages 6-16 whose parents are battling cancer got to go to camp this past summer at no cost to their families, thanks to the Texas A&M chapter of Camp Kesem.
The organization is part of a community of 70 chapters nationwide. A&M was the first Texas chapter of Camp Kesem and is entirely student run and funded, raising $90,000 last year to put on a summer camp in Rosebud, Texas. The week-long camp focuses on building a peer-based support network through ropes course elements, water activities and camp competitions that campers continue in throughout the year.
For her fourth year involved with Camp Kesem, first year law student Mattie Isturiz was one of two directors for the 2017 summer camp. Isturiz was counseled by a mental health professional at Camp Kesem U.T., who informed her of A&M’s chapter upon her graduation from high school.
“It’s fun more than anything,” Isturiz said. “A lot of students get scared of becoming a counselor because kids are hard and they hear the word ‘cancer.’ They think it’s just a ‘cancer camp,’ and that we’re going to only talk about cancer and we’re going to cry. But it’s just a lot of fun, and it’s a chance for the kids to be kids.”
Chandler Grimes, class of 2017, was looking for an organization she was passionate about, and discovered Camp Kesem at MSC Open House. Grimes was a director this summer and said she could relate to the kids at camp because her father had cancer while she was in junior high.
“Some of the kids tell us that there isn’t a day that goes by that they don’t think about Camp Kesem,” Grimes said. “We really try to make sure we’re a year-round support system. We aren’t there for them just for a week. We go there thinking we’re helping them, but they end up helping us with things we weren’t even sure we needed.”
Geology senior Caitlin Carter was a unit leader for 13 to 14-year-old girls at camp this year and said the experience of being involved in Camp Kesem has changed who she is as a person.
“It has made me more compassionate and opened my eyes a lot more to how fortunate I am as a person to still have my parents,” Carter said. “These kids taught me that life is hard, but you can get through it with your friends and with support from family.”
Carter said the counselors provide a free reunion each semester to maintain continuity and that the kids have the opportunity to attend camp multiple years, allowing the counselors to witness their growth.
“A lot of kids don’t really think about college,” Carter said. “I think we impact the kids by making them want to go to college and help other kids. It’s like a chain reaction. I think about my girls all the time still. They just pour their heart and soul out to you.”
Biomedical engineering junior Carolynn Van Zandt served as a fundraising coordinator for Camp Kesem and said she became involved in camp after receiving an informative email about the organization her freshman year, only two weeks after her father passed away from cancer.
“There’s not really anything like it for this population of kids,” Van Zandt said. “So when parents find out about it, they’re so eager and so excited. Just hearing the excitement in their voice when they call for the first time for more information is always so sweet… I love working on [Camp Kesem] all year long because it’s very centering.”
Isturiz said she has seen firsthand the effect Camp Kesem has on the campers and their families.
“It’s like a subconscious therapy,” Isturiz said. “We aren’t a therapy camp, but it offers that opportunity to grieve and mourn, and for them to understand that they’re normal. They learn that their lives are normal, their worries are normal, everything about them is normal.”

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  • Texas A&M students support the children of cancer victims by their involvement in Camp Kesem. 

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