I stumbled into Camp Kesem UGA at my freshman orientation’s activities fair. That day I signed my name and new .edu email address on at least 10 organizations’ lists and spoke with at least 10 more, so that funny word “Kesem” hardly stood out among the rest. Little did I know that Kesem was the Hebrew word for magic, and its serendipitous powers were already hard at work in my life.
The usual inane worries of freshman year like waking up before noon and getting lost on buses overwhelmed me, but I tried to take it all in stride without too many naps. Even with my determination, I only made it out to one of those 10 organizations’ meetings: Camp Kesem.
Feeling shy, I stood to the side and twiddled my thumbs, debating how and where to insert myself amongst the excited students. While it’d been easy to let quiet ol’ me to fall by the wayside, someone sought me out and struck up a conversation, instantly making me feel welcome.
Time and time again, the other volunteers of Camp Kesem were warm and friendly, always making me feel at ease. Freshman year progressed and continued to feel more overwhelming than in retrospect, but I always came back to Camp Kesem for more of that magical feeling.
It all culminated into my first week of camp that summer. After my peers worked all year on campus to make Camp Kesem feel like my home away from home, I got to do the same thing for our deserving campers. Though I thought I was supposed to support these children through and beyond their parent’s cancer, kids half my age opened my eyes to so many new perspectives.
I walked away from my first week of camp feeling, more than anything, inspired. They were stronger and kinder than I could imagine even trying to be, all while being vulnerably, wholeheartedly themselves.
The kids of Camp Kesem inspired me to be better, which led me to apply for Camp Kesem UGA’s executive board. Shocked doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling when I opened the acceptance email. Again, after my time on the Camp Kesem UGA executive board, I learned from my peers’ examples of passion, sincerity, and some of the hardest work I’d seen in my life.
The very heart of Camp Kesem’s mission is lifting people up through their struggles. Unfortunately, sometimes that struggle is losing loved ones. However, in these raw, vulnerable moments, I am most amazed by the way the Camp Kesem family rallies behind one another. It is these moments that remind me of the true, unshakeable power of love, friendship, and doing good.
Through all my time with Camp Kesem, the organization has never stopped inspiring me. It shaped my philosophy of perpetual growth of self, organizations, and communities. It motivated my decision to pursue nonprofit work after college. And, most importantly, it inspires me always to go out of my way to do good for myself and others, whether it’s for an organized effort like Camp Kesem or just walking down the street…because every street can be Good Street if you want it to be.
Meagan Chong is a third-year Public Relations major and English minor at the University of Georgia.
She is a lover of dessert and all things creative, April Ludgate is her role model, and she dedicates her life to doing good!