Photos courtesy Camp Kesem Miami.

By Ashley A. Williams

Photos courtesy Camp Kesem Miami.

Camp Kesem

By Ashley A. Williams
Unique camp supports children whose parents have cancer.

Rising senior Felipe Parodi leads the University of Miami’s chapter of Camp Kesem, a nationwide community driven by passionate college students that supports children whose parents have been diagnosed with cancer.

As part of UM’s chapter, students from diverse academic backgrounds band together as they take on a variety of leadership roles with the primary goal of providing a safe haven for children ages 6-18 to leave their worries behind and to be surrounded by a group of people who understand what they’re going through.  

Parodi has participated in the program since he was a freshman. One day, as Parodi was sitting in his introductory biology course, he overheard his teaching assistant promoting the camp. Immediately, a rush of emotions overcame Parodi. He knows all too well about dealing with a parent who has cancer as his mother is a cancer survivor. 

“This camp hit home for me and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it and to make a difference in a child’s life,” he said. “When you have a parent with cancer, it forces you to grow up.” 

Felipe Parodi and camperParodi joined the organization as a camp counselor and quickly rose through the ranks from outreach executive board member to his current position as director. He uses his personal experience to inspire campers who are going through the same ordeal. During camp, kids can escape their reality by picking nicknames and costumes to don for the week. 

“Our focus isn’t on the cancer itself,” he said. “We instill a sense of magic because our goal is to provide relief through music, drama, and arts and crafts.” 

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UM Miller School of Medicine partners with the camp to provide goodies for the campers. In return, UM students volunteer and participate in service days at Sylvester. This relationship has helped Camp Kesem to grow significantly within the past couple of years.

“The partnership has been really helpful,” said Parodi. “When we volunteer at these events we are able to meet families and children who didn’t know about Camp Kesem.” 

While camp only lasts for a week, Parodi is passionate about leaving a lasting impression on the kids. In his role, the biggest thing he’s learned is to keep an open mind. “No matter the size and package the message comes in you have to listen with your full heart because you have no idea what they can teach you,” he said. 

Learn more about Camp Kesem at the University of Miami here.