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'Resounding success' at first Camp Kesem week

August  06, 2012

(See more photos on the Camp Kesem Augustana Facebook page)

Augustana's new chapter of Camp Kesem hosted 35 children and their families at its first week-long campout. The group's advisor, Dr. Bohdan Dziadyk, called it a "resounding success!"

Camp Kesem is an organization run by college students that hosts a camp for children with a parent who either has or had cancer. The Augustana camp was held July 22-28 at the YMCA Camp near Ames, Iowa.

Dr. Dziadyk said the National Standards Evaluation rating for Augustana's chapter was 100%, and it was the first 100% ever awarded to a new chapter. Also, because the group was so organized and successful in its first year, the national organization has given them permission to host a teen camp next year.

"Students Jenna Orabutt and Cortney Lebeda deserve much thanks for establishing this group and all the motivated student counselors for bringing it to fruition," he said.

Orabutt '14 founded the Camp Kesem chapter at Augustana. She and her co-chair, Cortney Lebeda '13, worked with a core group of 8 Augustana students, along with their advisors, Dr. Dziadyk and Dr. S.A. Fenwick.

The group raised nearly $37,000 this year to get its start and provide the free camp. Twenty-four students went through extensive training from both the Camp Kesem and Livestrong organizations to become counselors.  

Campers and counselors alike enjoyed a week that they will not soon forget. The biggest lesson learned while at camp was with that with love and laughter, you can get through anything, Orabutt said. "We created a huge Kesem family that will be there to support each other, and knowing this the campers were able to smile and laugh and have fun the whole week.," she added.

The counselors learned even more than the campers. "I'm pretty sure every counselor will agree that we went into camp wanting to be role models for these kids, and we came out with 35 little heroes," Orabutt said. "It's these kids who are dealing with cancer in their family and still being able to laugh and support each other who are truly the heroes."

Orabutt praised the counselors' efforts at the camp. "Everyone was so great with the kids and so passionate about our cause. The campers absolutely loved them, and they truly made camp what it was. The campers were asking about next year's camp in the middle of the week, and that wasn't because of the activities--that was because of our counselors and how wonderful they all are."

At the camp, the students tie-dyed 65 T-shirts, sang hundreds of camp songs, swam in the pool, went canoeing and rock climbing, did a low ropes course, played sports, did arts and crafts, and had drama rotations. They also listened to the young campers.

"Some of the stories these youngsters shared with the counselors were very moving and I think more than justify what Camp Kesem is all about," Dr. Dziadyk said.

Orabutt's passion to bring Camp Kesem to Augustana grew out of personal experience. She was 9 years old when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother survived the cancer, but Orabutt has not forgotten how terrifying and painful it was to think she might lose her mother.

Augustana is by far one of the smallest schools to be involved with Camp Kesem. Only 37 campuses across the United States will host a Camp Kesem this year.

Camp Kesem gives children ages 6-13 who have been affected by a parent's cancer the opportunity to escape the sometimes-stressful environment at home and just be kids. For more information, see

Camp Kesem Augustana will host a reunion for its families on Aug. 22 at the River Bandits game at the Modern Woodman Park in Davenport, Iowa.