Junior Phong Truong reports on the summer 2017 edition of Camp Kesem at VCU. After losing his mom to cancer three months after he started college, he discovered Camp Kesem, an ideal way to help others struggling with a similar experience. For 2017 he held the position of volunteer coordinator in charge of recruiting and training VCU students to become counselors. For the coming year, he will serve as outreach coordinator and find campers by contacting health professionals, business leaders, and community leaders in the Richmond area. Phong "King Bob" Truong ‘19 (center photo) was joined at Camp Kesem by several nicknamed fellow Honors students: Yu Par "Hammy" Aung Myo ‘19, Jenna "Espresso" Chun ‘20 (right), Grace "Tails" Miner ‘20, Aleonna "Bean" Scott ‘20 (left), and Kush "Snickers" Patel ‘20.
"With 1.7 million cancer cases a year in the United States, more than five million children have been touched by a parent’s cancer. Camp Kesem is the only national organization dedicated to this unique population. Because they don’t appear sick, these kids’ needs are often overlooked and they suffer quietly, leading to academic, social, emotional and developmental problems. Camp Kesem helps these children through and beyond their parent’s cancer by providing a carefree and fun environment in which they can interact and bond with peers and who face similar struggles at home.
"This summer, 45 college students led a summer camp that took a year's preparation. All year long leading up to camp, we spent hundreds of hours volunteering, fundraising, planning and reaching out to the Richmond community. Camp Kesem at VCU provides free resources and facilitates life-long relationships between college students and children who are affected by a parent's cancer. This camping experience has a lasting impact on children by providing them a peer-support network that understands their unique needs, builds confidence and strengthens their communication skills.
"After raising more than $50,000, training student counselors and putting every last sweat and tear into making this the best week of the year for our campers, we were able to hold an unforgettable, free summer camp for them! Children affected by a parent's cancer have to grow up too soon, mature too early and often have no outlet in a peer or family setting to communicate these emotions and feelings. Camp Kesem at VCU gives them a chance to express these pent-up emotions, whether it's putting a little extra effort at the crazy game called gaga ball, making jubilant arts & crafts or releasing a year's worth of thoughts at our nightly camper-focused cabin chats.
"Campers have a chance to talk about what's going on at home with others who share a similar experience. They can also simply listen if they don't feel comfortable talking about it. For Camp Kesem at VCU 2017, our chapter (one of more than 90 chapters nationwide) was able to bring magic into the lives of around 50 children. We also hold reunions to remind our campers that we are here for them physically and emotionally all year long. Kesem means magic when translated and is one of the most appropriate words to describe the emotions and feelings from coming to this camp!"