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Kesem’s Make the Magic gala raises over $23,000

The gala, held at the Bell Museum in St. Paul, benefited children whose parents have cancer.
Image by Gabrielle Erenstein
Luminaries line the stairway at the Bell Museum for the fundraiser for Camp Kesem on Saturday. Kesem’s Make the Magic gala at the Bell Museum supports children whose parents have cancer by allowing them to attend Camp Kesem.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, guests at the Make the Magic gala arrived at the Bell Museum on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus. 

Kesem, a nonprofit organization supporting children whose parents have cancer, hosts this gala to raise money for Camp Kesem — a four-day camp in August for those children. The camp is led by college students who provide them with a fun and welcoming environment, according to their website.

This year, through donations and games throughout the gala, Kesem raised $23,500 for their organization. The money will go towards making registration for Camp Kesem free of charge for families, according to Syndey Boyd, a third-year student and co-coordinator of the gala. 

Boyd added Camp Kesem is a place to connect kids going through similar experiences. 

“A lot of kids have talked to us about how when they are going to school, their school friends don’t understand what it’s like to have a parent with cancer,” Boyd said. “At Camp Kesem, everyone understands.” 

Boyd said she joined the organization after being a guest at a Make the Magic gala in her first year of college. After she immersed herself in Kesem’s culture she said she did not want to leave and decided to join.  

“It makes my problems feel so small and it’s beautiful to see these strong kids who are dealing with such a hard time, how resilient they are and how they can have a smile on their face even when they’re facing such adversity,” Boyd said. “Even outside of the campers, the community of Kesem are the nicest people I know.”

Devin Schmeck, a second-year student, joined Kesem last year and is now on the executive board as a volunteer coordinator. He said once he saw how big of an impact the Make the Magic gala was, he decided he wanted to make a difference for the kids.  

“At camp, there’s something called ‘Kesem magic,’ which you can’t feel until you’re there,” Schmeck said. “The community of being with kids that have gone through something so difficult, and they are the ones putting a smile on your face is what it’s all about.”

For Jason Hatcher and his family, Camp Kesem means a lot. Both of Hatcher’s daughters have participated in the camp, and he said it has been a part of their lives for many years. On Saturday night, Hatcher said he feels fortunate to be at the gala and a part of the event with everyone else. 

Hatcher said as a family impacted by cancer, Camp Kesem brought them joy in a time of a lot of pain. His family had the chance to connect with other families who are experiencing the same thing through Camp Kesem. 

“The mission of the organization is so genuine, in the sense that they bring a lot of joy to kids, and cancer is something that everybody has been impacted or knows somebody that has been impacted,” Hatcher said. “Contributing to the organization allows the joy to be given to other kids, it does impact their lives and it impacts the families that are supporting them as well.”

Throughout the night, speakers who have experienced Kesem talked about how meaningful the organization has been for them. As a new member of the organization this year, Josh Levine, a second-year student, has seen the impact firsthand that Kesem has had on families and members of Kesem alike. 

“This is my first year, so I haven’t gotten too much into it,” Levine said. “Just seeing how it has impacted everyone else in the group has been good to see.”

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  • Anita Hall
    Apr 11, 2024 at 10:43 pm

    Thanks for shining a light on Camp Kesem. Before today I didn’t know this organization existed but now, I am a donor just on the strength of your article.

  • KG
    Apr 8, 2024 at 11:32 am

    Thank you for that really great article on Camp Kesem, and it’s good to know that there was a Make the Magic activity here at UMN. Just a little background. The word “kesem” means magic in Hebrew. The Kesem site states how it got started. “The first Kesem chapter was founded at Stanford University in 2000 as a project of Hillel at Stanford. Since then, we have grown to more than 130 chapters across the country.”