Each year, after sending my son off for a week at Camp Kesem, he emerges a little more in his own. He is unique, that young man. Sometimes he is a little quirky, clumsy, introspective, curious, or flighty. He, like all of us, embodies different qualities on different days. Now more than ever, as manhood begins to take hold of him, he is ever-changing. Although his friends have come up with their own nickname for him, rather than the sweet way he referred to himself when he forever-suffered from ear infections and couldn’t hear his name quite right, he will always be “YaYa” to me — not so little anymore but still my YaYa.
The leaders at camp, all amazing college students who really do “make magic happen.” Having created this unique experience through their own efforts, these student-leaders put their fundraising, financing, marketing and project management skills to work to create a fun, emotionally-supportive environment for kids who have a parent with cancer, or have lost a parent to cancer. These kids need to be kids, but their needs are often overshadowed by the demands of cancer treatment (or grieving). Here, they get a full week of having their needs met.
This is my son’s 6th year of this invaluable camp. He looks forward to it every year and we insure that nothing stands in his way of attending; he has only a year or two left before he is no longer eligible to attend. With 5 years of healing, YaYa is now in a good space to help the kids who are still overwhelmed by what Cancer has robbed them of. It’s quite different from his first time here, just 3 months after his dad died. The counselors continue to sing praises of YaYa’s leadership and mentoring qualities when we reunite at the end of camp. Already, my son is talking about the upcoming year where he will enter into OLP (outdoor leadership program), as well as the possibility of becoming a camp leader when he attends college. It’s a pretty cool thought.