Spreading magic to kids at Camp Kesem

On Marquette's campus, we are fortunate enough to have a chapter of Camp Kesem. Kesem is a nationwide organization that operates over 100 free summer camps in 40 states for children ages 6 to 18 who have been impacted by a parent's cancer. Outside of camp, Kesem's goal is to have a lasting impact on children by providing them a peer-support network that understands their unique needs, builds confidence and strengthens their communication skills. In 2017, Camp Kesem served over 7,200 children coast to coast, all funded by generous donations from individuals, foundations and corporate partners. 

This club is open to the entire student body on Marquette's campus, and Camp Kesem is very special to the Marquette Evans Scholars since our very own Scholar, Janni Palijo, is the co-director of the Kesem chapter.

Janni's path to joining Camp Kesem was unconventional. She was first approached to join Camp Kesem in fall of 2015 by an older Scholar, Jess Ayala. At this time, there was no official chapter of Camp Kesem at Marquette. However, with much determination and perseverance, by the spring of 2016, Marquette was granted permission to have their very own chapter of Camp Kesem. Janni was the volunteer coordinator and a camp counselor during the first year of Kesem ever to be held through Marquette. At this time, there were only 27 campers. Now, only a mere two years later, there are already 67 campers!

From camp counselor to co-director, Janni has found her time at Camp Kesem to be nothing but rewarding. Janni was looking for some way to get involved on campus and Kesem provided her the perfect outlet; she wanted something to "push her more than just going through the motions" in life. As a co-director, Janni is able to see just how much her work and Camp Kesem is positively impacting the campers via their parents. Although Kesem is primarily for the kids, Janni states that camp allows for her own personal growth as well. For example, when she is at school and having a bad day, she is reminded how her struggles are in her control. This varies from the children at camp who cannot escape the hardships of parental cancer since it is not in their control.

Since she is a senior, this will be Janni's last year at camp. With this in mind, she will be seeking to remain a part of this wonderful organization by becoming a camp advisor (alumni who attend camp and are the liaisons between the chapter and national Kesem). Janni aspires to also become a camp nurse in the future. In spite of this being her last summer, Janni hopes to remain a part of an organization that has brought so much magic to her life.