Girl Power: Bringing Camp Kesem to UCSC

Sophomores Marissa Heirich and Katie Sweeney are the Co-Directors of the Camp Kesem UCSC Chapter. Camp Kesem is a free week long summer camp for children affected by a parent's cancer. Each Camp Kesem chapter are operated and funded by college students at over 50 campuses nationwide. In the summer of 2013, Camp Kesem was able to send over 3000 kids to camp for free and provide families and their campers with year-round support. This year, Camp Kesem UC Santa Cruz, has a goal of raising $30,000 which would let 30 children attend camp. 

What inspired you to bring Camp Kesem to UCSC students?

Katie, along with Michelle Daher, Sze-Shun Lau, and Cady Watts attended the first Camp Kesem at Stanford University starting in 2001. Inspired by her experiences at camp and the incredible impact that Kesem had on her, Katie started a campaign to bring Camp Kesem to UCSC through the Livestrong Community Impact Project. She collected enough votes through the online voting campaign to land UCSC a $10,000 grant to be distributed to Camp Kesem UC Santa Cruz over the first three years of its operation.

What would you like UCSC and other college students out there know about Camp Kesem?

Camp Kesem makes a huge impact on the lives of an often overlooked population of children, but it also prepares and empowers a generation of student leaders by allowing responsible college-age individuals to make a meaningful difference. Testimonials from many Camp Kesem alumni and active volunteers say that becoming involved in Camp Kesem was one of the best decisions that they made in college. Each of our camps around the country is organized and operated by the young up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow who gain hands-on experience in fundraising, finance, marketing and project management as they bring much-needed happiness to truly deserving kids. In addition to real-world skills, Camp Kesem enables student-leaders to discover their passion for serving others.

What are your current projects and goals with Camp Kesem?

As a first year chapter, Camp Kesem UC Santa Cruz has a goal of raising $30,000 by the start summer of 2014, which would send at least 30 children to camp for free and provide them with a full year of Kesem support. As of March 1st, we have raised over $21,000 through individual donations, on and off-campus fundraisers, and restaurant nights. Our next fundraiser will be March 5th at Upper Crust Pizza from 10 am - 10 pm. Mention Camp Kesem with your order and we receive 25% of the profits!

We are also looking for students to volunteer as camp counselors for the week of camp (July 13th-18th). Camp counselors attend weekly trainings during spring quarter and stay in the cabins with campers during the week of camp. It is an incredibly unique and rewarding opportunity for college students to make a significant impact on the lives of children. Counselor applications will be open until March 17th, please email [email protected] for the application details.

Why would you like others to participate or support your organization?

Camp Kesem has been an incredible opportunity that we both feel lucky and honored to be a part of, on a local and national level. 


Be sure to check out their facebook page for future fundraising events!