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Camp for children opens at BYU-Idaho

Photo by Juliana Avery -- Denis Tang (left), a senior studying communication, and Darren Gealta (right), a senior studying exercise physiology, stand in front of Tang’s senior project display. Tang and Gealta worked together to bring a chapter of Camp Kesem to BYU-Idaho.
Photo by Juliana Avery — Denis Tang (left), a senior studying communication, and Darren Gealta (right), a senior studying exercise physiology, stand in front of Tang’s senior project display. Tang and Gealta worked together to bring a chapter of Camp Kesem to BYU-Idaho.

Camp Kesem, a summer camp for the children of cancer patients, offers hundreds of hours of service and leadership opportunities for BYU-Idaho students.
The BYU-I chapter of Camp Kesem will host the first camp during Spring Semester 2014.
Camp Kesem offers sport and relief for children ages 6 to 16 whose lives have been significantly altered by a parent having cancer.
“Kesem (n): magic; the ability to change a life; an agent of growth; the unique power that transforms kids into Camp Kesem Campers,” according to the Camp Kesem website.
With over 3 million children whose families have been affected by cancer the need for Camp Kesem is prevalent, according to the Camp Kesem website.
“When a parent is diagnosed with cancer, the entire family is affected. For children whose parents have this horrible disease, the joys of childhood are replaced with a new reality of cancer vocabulary, treatments and fears.”  according to the Camp Kesem website.
Darren Gealta, a senior studying exercise physiology, said he was looking for opportunities to serve and to gain leadership experience so he became a volunteer for the camp.
“My wife lost her dad to cancer when she was 5 years old, and so I know what the kids are going through, at least by extension; the part of the pain in a life that you have to live when that happens,” Gealta said.
As the founder of the BYU-I chapter of Camp Kesem, Gealta went through the year-long application process twice in order to make the camp available to BYU-I students who want to volunteer.
He said that as a pre-med student, he noticed that many of his peers were looking for those same opportunities, and that Camp Kesem provides those opportunities for all students in any major.
“If people want to make a difference in a family’s life, this is the way to do it,” Gealta said.
Gealta said that while other colleges had committees who worked on the application process, he started out by himself. He later found sport in a friend he met in his ward, Denis Tang, a senior studying communication.
Tang featured Camp Kesem as his senior project, which was part of the Communication Department showcase June 27 at the BYU-Idaho center.
The BYU-I chapter of Camp Kesem is strictly a student-run organization and is in the process of offering internship opportunities.
Gealta and Tang are hoping many students at BYU-I will want to become involved.
“We actually hire or select every year … It’s not a one-time thing … we have 10 executive coordinators and they cover fundraising, finances, community outreach, marketing and public relations and more,” Gealta said.
Gealta said establishing the BYU-I chapter of Camp Kesem was a challenge.
If the application passes the first round of requirements, it goes into a second round, competing with other colleges that are chosen by a nationwide vote.
“We were competing against schools like Penn State, Stanford, Harvard and Yale,” Gealta said. “We received over 1,000 votes.”
Camp Kesem is sponsored by the Livestrong foundation, and offers Camp Kesem free of charge to children whose parents have, or have had cancer according the Camp Kesem website.
The camp plans to host at least 50 children for one week of summer camp in Southeast Idaho and are taking applications now for approximately 30 camp counselors, two directors and various other positions. Applications for leadership positions with BYU-I Camp Kesem are available by emailing Darren Gealta at byuidaho@campkesem.org.

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