Posted Online: April 15, 2014, 10:14 pm

Camp Kesem

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John Marx,

Photo: Submitted
Augustana College students and Camp Kesem 2013 participants.
By the time today's sermonette reaches you, my hope is Mother Nature has done her part and finally warmed your toes and souls.

If she continues to lag, read on, because the work of dozens of Augustana College students will warm your hearts.

Camp Kesem is a week-long summer camp for children whose parents have, have had or have passed away from cancer. It began in 2000 at Stanford University, and 37 campers were hosted at the school's first camp in the summer of 2001.

Statistics show that about three million children in the United States live with a parent who has cancer, and countless have lost a parent to this dreaded disease.

Iris Rave, who founded Camp Kesem, realized children of cancer patients were being overlooked, and wanted to provide a support network for the young people who get lost in the shuffle.

When Camp Kesem became a national organization in 2002, the mission expanded to include the idea of empowering student leaders at college campuses across the United States.

Camp Kesem reached Rock Island's Augustana College in 2011. That first year, students tirelessly worked to fund, and host, 35 campers in the summer of 2012.

In the 2012-13 school year, Augustana's Camp Kesem chapter hosted 55 campers. This year, Jessica Launius, Augustana's Camp Kesem co-director, said 34 Augie students will work to provide fun for a whopping 75 campers from July 20-26 at a YMCA camp in Boone, Iowa.

"It's been exciting to watch our campus, one of the smallest to have a chapter of Camp Kesem, grow over such a short time,'' Launius, a junior at Augustana, said in an email. "The students here (Augustana) who are involved with Camp Kesem truly work their hardest to make camp happen.

"Camp Kesem is completely student run, and so everything that happens -- from recruiting campers, training counselors, scheduling camp and fundraising $50,000 in order to make camp possible – is pioneered by our student leaders," she wrote.

"On top of organizing camp, they are also full-time students at Augustana College, and so the amount of work they pour into Camp Kesem is astounding. Camp Kesem provides year round support for these campers and their families, allowing the students to realize they are not alone in what they are feeling and to develop friendships that can last a lifetime.''

Augustana's Camp Kesem chapter hosts its largest fundraiser of the year, "Make the Magic,'' at 6 p.m. May 10 at the Quad City Botanical Center. Visit for reservations.

Launius said the financial goal of "Make the Magic,'' is to raise $9,000 for Camp Kesem. It will include dinner, music by the Augustana Jazz Ensemble, speakers and a silent auction, Launius wrote.

She said they also will host a "Dine and Donate'' night from 4 to 8 p.m. April 23 at the Moline Chipotle's. The group will receive 50 percent of the proceeds from people who say they're there for Camp Kesem.

"The rest of our fundraisers are taking place on campus and include things such as a barbecue and bags tournament on the (Augustana) Quad and a sand volleyball competition and grill out.''

Camp Kesem: instant warmth provided by big-hearted college students.

Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309 757-8388 or