Camp Kesem to come to MSU

Mississippi State University freshman psychology major Madelyn Slaten, a former Camp Kesem participant, encourages visitors at an information table in Colvard Student Union to vote for MSU during Camp Kesem’s recent “Chapter Expansion Campaign.” MSU will host a new chapter of Camp Kesem this fall with the first summer camp to be offered in 2020. (Submitted photo)

Staff Writer

Children and youth whose lives have been affected by cancer will soon have a new opportunity to share experiences with others in similar situations.

This week Mississippi State University was picked as the location for Camp Kesem’s newest chapter after garnering the most votes of 12 colleges. Camp Kesem was founded at Stanford University in 2000, and provides a summer camp experience for children and youth between 6 and 18 years old who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer. Currently, there are more than 110 Camp Kesem chapters nationwide, with more than 5,000 college students volunteering.

The effort to bring a chapter to MSU began with freshman psychology major, Madelyn Slaten. The Savannah, Tennessee native had attended Camp Kesem herself while her mother underwent treatments for breast cancer.

“I think it’s pretty amazing that we get to be a part of something that’s special in so many lives,” Slaten said. “I think it’s going to be amazing.”

Slaten first attended Camp Kesem at Vanderbilt University when she was 14.

“I fell in love with it, and I just found so many people through it that are just so supportive in this situation and in other situations." Slaten said. "My counselors are the ones who pushed me and kind of guided me through this process.”

To gain the votes necessary, Slaten and other volunteers canvassed the community, encouraging customers at several businesses to vote. The process of acquiring a chapter began in October 2018. Slaten contacted one of her professors who put her in contact with Chris and Susan Brooks. Chris is an associate professor of biological sciences and Susan is business manager in MSU’s Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. Both have recently been affected by cancer. Their son Justin Crenshaw also became involved in the efforts.

“We were interested in it, not only because one of our son had cancer and was a St. Jude patient when he was little, before Chris and I had even met, but I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year,” said Susan Brooks. “I had just really figured out from my own trials how difficult it was actually being able to talk with people who hadn’t been through similar situations.”

Brooks described the process of getting the chapter set up.

“We filled out an application, started finding people that would be interested and had some student interest groups in October and November, then we submitted our application and ended up becoming a finalist in December,” Brooks said. “We were able to get the most votes."

In addition to MSU, which received the most votes at 7,100, Auburn University, Denison University, Miami University and Montana State University will also house new Camp Kesem chapters.

The MSU chapter will be organized in the coming fall semester with the first camp to be held in summer 2020.

“We’ll be having some training with Camp Kesem personnel and going through leadership seminars and things like that,” Brooks said.

A Camp Kesem session is typically a week long, and consists mainly of traditional camp activities like swimming, field games and nature activities. Attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in an empowerment ceremony, sharing their experiences with each other.

“That’s where we actually talk about why we’re at camp,” Slaten said. “Everyone gets to share why they’re there, and everyone gets to support everyone.”