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UK's Camp Kesem brings "magic" to children of cancer patients

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

Photo provided by Alina Jablonski (pictured left).

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of a student-run organization on the University of Kentucky’s campus that aims to make a real difference for kids, Camp Kesem.

Alina Jablonski, a UK senior, said Camp Kesem is a group that supports kids whose parents have experienced cancer. The students fundraise money for the kids to participate in a free week-long summer camp where college students can participate as counselors.

Jablonski is one of the Operations Coordinators for Camp Kesem. She is in charge of planning camp, friend days and family days. In addition to her position, Jablonski has volunteered as a camp counselor for the past three years.

“It’s more than just a summer camp, it is an organization that works to bring magic and a feeling of home and peace to kids who are experiencing a home life a lot of us could never have imagined,” Jablonski said.

Senior Haylee Reyes said the word “magic” comes to mind when she thinks about Camp Kesem.

“Kesem in Hebrew means magic, and this fits perfectly with what Camp Kesem is all about,” Reyes said.

Reyes is also one of the Operations Coordinators for Camp Kesem, and she served as a counselor this past year. Reyes said the organization is really important to her because her best friend's mom had Melanoma, and it still impacts her today.

“I want to support other young kids who have been impacted by cancer the way I was there for my best friend when she was going through a tough time,” Reyes said.

Reyes wants to become a pediatrician in the future, with the goal of completing more research on cancer and finding a potential cure.

Jablonski said her favorite memory during camp is an activity called “Empowerment,” where all of the kids gather as a group and everyone has a chance to share their story.

“Not only would they tell their story, but they would hold the hand of another camper telling theirs," Jablonski said. "They would come across the circle to give someone a hug."

“The friendships built through Camp Kesem are magical in itself, and it’s a life-changing experience,” Reyes said.

Jablonski said there are a lot of levels of involvement for any interested student. Camp Kesem hosts monthly meetings, fundraisers and friends and family days, which anyone can attend. Camp Kesem has over 100 organizations nationwide and helped 10,200 children this past year with their camps and various events.

More information about Camp Kesem at the University of Kentucky can be found here.


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