Taylor Hoogsteden has made a number of noteworthy memories working for Camp Kesem UR, a student organization that helps run free, week-long summer camps for children coping with a parent's cancer.
One memory from the summer of 2017, her first session as a camp counselor, stands out.
Hoogsteden, now a junior, was assigned to work with 6-year-old campers. During a pre-briefing, she learned that the youngest member of her group had lost both parents, one to cancer, and was now living with her grandmother.
“Going in, I expected her to be so different than she actually was,” Hoogsteden said of the camper. “She’s the bravest person I’ve ever met.
“She carried herself like a grown adult, and I guess in a way she kind of has to be. I can’t even imagine at my age being in that situation.”
Hoogsteden served as a co-coordinator of this year's Make the Magic, an annual fundraising event that Camp Kesem UR held on March 30 in the Jepson Alumni Center.
Senior Lauren Costello, one of Camp Kesem UR’s two directors, described Make the Magic as a lighthearted and fun celebration of the group’s work over the past year, bringing together campers and their families, community supporters and donors in one place.
Make the Magic, now in its fourth year, helps raise funds for Camp Kesem UR in a variety of ways, including ticket sales, event sponsors, raffles and auctions, Costello said.
This year, the event raised $16,285, according to a post on the Camp Kesem UR Instagram page. Senior Sean Clair, the organization’s other director, had expected this year's event to raise between $15,000 and $20,000, he said before the event. Last year’s Make the Magic event raised about $15,000, he said.
Hoogsteden and junior Caroline Schiavo, Make the Magic’s two event coordinators, were responsible for a number of tasks, including organizing event catering, promoting the event through a social media campaign, soliciting donors and working with the organization’s marketing team to design the event’s aesthetics. This year’s event had a '60s beach party theme, Schiavo said.
128 people attended the event, Schiavo said.
One of the organization’s goals for this year’s Make the Magic was to make the event less repetitive for returning guests, Hoogsteden said. The event offered new raffle baskets and the inclusion of an “I Kesem Because” board, allowing attendees to reflect on their connections to the cause in a different way, she said.
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Clair, Costello and Hoogsteden each joined Camp Kesem UR during their first years of college, they said. Schiavo also joined during her first year at UR, though she was a sophomore who had just transferred schools.
Although helping coordinate Make the Magic could be overwhelming at times, Hoogsteden said, she felt the work was well worth it.
“Anyone involved with Camp Kesem will say that it’s really thinking about the campers," Hoogsteden said. "Even though it’s just for a week, getting to see the impact that camp has on them really makes us want to do this.”
Schiavo echoed Hoogsteden’s comments.
“Seeing all of the campers’ parents and campers’ families coming back every year is really important,” she said of Make the Magic. “It’s the one way, I guess, to represent camp without going to camp. You’ll see alumni, you’ll see families, and that’s the one time of year beside our reunion that you see them.”
As for the camper Hoogsteden met last summer, Camp Kesem had a lasting impact.
"She didn’t want to leave,” Hoogsteden said. “She comes to our reunion events and she made friends that she still keeps in touch with year-round.”
And for Hoogsteden's own experience at Camp Kesem, she said, “Honestly, it was a life-changing experience.”
Contact opinions editor Riley Blake at email@example.com.
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