Monday, April 9, 2012

Helping a Collegian who helps families with Cancer

We think it is important to support our collegians who are nearby and far away from teh Tallahassee and Thomasville area. This is a worthy cause and one touching and affecting many lives:

To my Alpha Chi sisters,

My name is Bre Vergess and I am the president of Alpha Chi Omega, Pi Chapter at UC Berkeley. I would appreciate it if you could help me share my story with your chapter!

When my father, Dr. Russell Vergess, was diagnosed, I was 12 years old. In the year following the news, I was forced to grow up faster than my friends and I tried to understand how this thing called “Cancer” was making my dad so sick so fast. He was an incredible man and he was my hero, but through his fight and until the day he passed away, his priority was always me. He wanted me to have a normal life and have fun, and more than anything he didn’t want to leave his only daughter behind. The strength of my father and the power of the cause pushed me to fight back in my own way.

Arriving at the University of California, Berkeley almost 3 years ago, I came across an organization called Camp Kesem. Camp Kesem is a free sleep away summer camp for kids ages 6 to 16 with a parent who has or has had cancer. It is simply a week for them to have as much fun as possible, given the support and attention they need.

This year is my third year with Camp Kesem, and my second year as a coordinator, but what has kept me so deeply drawn to this organization can hardly be described to you in a letter. It is an 8 year-old boy with nothing on his mind but the pure joy of reaching the top of the rock climbing wall. It is a group of 10 year-olds who have known each other for 2 days laughing and working together to win the scavenger hunt like they’ve been friends for years. It is sitting face to face with a 13 year-old camper who can’t seem to understand why “this thing” has happened to her, and seeing my young, vulnerable and afraid 13 year-old self staring back at me. I can’t help but think of my dad and what Camp Kesem would have meant to him- knowing the magnitude of a parent’s love for their child and through that, what camp provides not only to the kids, but to the parents.

Camp Kesem is many things: it is adventure, new friends, new experiences. But more than that, it is an inexplicable joy and passion that comes from a common bond that our campers share. It is a place of growth and confidence. It is a source of strength and hope. It comes from a need that changed my life seven years ago, but today, with every camper, their family, and their story, Camp Kesem has drawn my heart closer to its cause.

Camp Kesem is run by college students, and between 2001 and 2010, the organization grew from a single campus hosting 37 campers to a national movement with 37 camps in over 22 states. There are 1.7 million cancer cases a year in the United States that affect individuals and their families, and while the support network is there for adults, the special emotional needs of the children of cancer patients is often overlooked. Camp Kesem is just beginning to address this need.

Camp Kesem, Berkeley, raises $70,000 annually to bring 80 campers and 40 counselors to camp, and we are continuing to grow and expand each year. I would really appreciate any support you can provide - whether it's just reading the Camp Kesem website (, forwarding this information on to friends/family, donating, or inquiring about other ways that you can help. All donations are tax-deductible. With your help, we can make this year's Camp Kesem an overwhelming success!

Donate online on my personal fundraising page at:

In the bond,
Bre Vergess

There are several chapters of Camp Kesem hosted by universities all over the U.S. If you or someone you know has children and has fought or is fighting cancer, or is interested in starting a CK on your/their campus, go for more information.

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