Denison is home to student leaders dedicated to helping the community and making the area a better place. Rachel Reardon ‘19 is one of those students. Reardon, along with Dr. Joe Reczek and Andrew Ferguson ‘19, were instrumental in the process of starting a chapter of Camp Kesem on campus at Denison. Reardon explains her inspiration for starting the camp.

“When Professor Sue Davis passed away from cancer early in 2018, the loss touched all of us at Denison. Empathizing with her family increased our awareness of the devastating effect that a parent’s cancer has on children, and made us aware of the amazing work done through Camp Kesem,” Reardon said.

Camp Kesem is a summer camp dedicated to helping children who have parents diagnosed with cancer. “With over 5 million children impacted by a parent’s cancer, Camp Kesem must continue expanding to meet this need. Kesem is the largest national organization dedicated to this unique population, and for many children their Camp Kesem experience is a life-changing event–providing them a community of children with similar experiences, and a safe and welcoming environment to have fun and rediscover their childhood,” the Camp Kesem mission statement reads.

Reardon continued, “When we brought up the idea of starting a chapter on our campus, we were overwhelmed by the amount of support and enthusiasm shown by our faculty, students, and local community in Granville and Licking County. Camp Kesem will be a way for us to strengthen our ties to the Licking County community and bring hope, joy, and happiness to children in our area.”

In regard to Denison, campus had to fight to earn the opportunity to bring a chapter on the Hill. First, the idea of bringing a chapter to campus was presented to DCGA early in the Fall semester of 2018 by Ferguson and Jordan Beck ‘20.

After completing an extensive application process this fall to demonstrate both the need for Camp Kesem in our area as well as the community’s ability and enthusiasm to support this organization, Denison was selected as one of 12 finalists in the national public voting campaign. Through social media outreach and the creation of a number of flyers, graphics, and a promotional video, Camp Kesem was able to network with a remarkable number of Denison supporters. “Because of the incredibly strong connections that are part of the fabric of Denison’s culture, we were able to out-compete schools with over ten times our enrollment to become one of the top five campuses with the most votes!” exclaimed Reardon.

This means that Denison will be hosting the first week of camp during the summer of 2020, and will continue to hold camps in each of the years following. Denison’s partners at the national headquarters are currently working on selecting next year’s co-directors from student applications, and then will begin choosing various committee coordinators. The 2019-2020 academic year will involve lots of fundraising, training for coordinators and future counselors, connecting with community partners for outreach and camper recruitment, and working out logistics with a local ACA-accredited campsite where the summer camp will take place.

Reardon closes with acknowledging that “there really is nowhere else like Denison for a Camp Kesem chapter! Having fewer students creates an atmosphere where students take very active roles in learning, service and leadership, and that culture of excellence and engagement defines everything we do. We are energized and prepared to become a part of carrying out the mission of Camp Kesem. Denison’s strong connections with the Granville and Licking County communities through collaboration with The Works Center, educational internships, service learning opportunities and more gives us the knowledge and resources to provide the best possible experience for local children. The existing network of support for events like Pelotonia and Relay for Life will provide us with the ideal framework for garnering local support for our efforts. We have the students, resources, community and passion that will make for an exceptional Camp Kesem experience for local children in need. Camp Kesem will be an amazing resource for these children, as well as a truly incredibly opportunity for Denison students to engage with their local community and make a meaningful impact while gaining meaningful leadership experience.”

Keep a lookout for more information in the near future regarding Camp Kesem and how you can become involved!