On Tuesday, Oct. 30 and Thursday, Nov. 1 Camp Kesem held their first Dog Kissing Booth Fundraiser outside of Raymond H. Fogler Library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On the University of Maine’s mall, Camp Kesem organization members greeted staff and students and spoke about the program. Students had the opportunity to kiss, pet and get their picture taken with a dog in return for a $1 donation to the group’s summer camp.
“A really fun part of my job as Development Coordinator is coming up with creative ideas for fundraisers. I figured, dogs are something that people love and it would be a good stress relief after a hard week of midterms,” second-year student Anna Zmistowski said. “Our goal was to send one kid to camp, and we have almost successfully reached the goal.”
Camp Kesem is a national non-profit organization founded in Los Angeles, California, that works with cancer patients and their families. The organization sends children of parents who have had cancer, or currently have it, to a free week of summer camp every year. The Dog Kissing Booth was a sponsored fundraiser that encouraged students to donate to the organization and learn more about Camp Kesem’s goals and plans for the future.
“The camp is for kids who have family members going through cancer or have survived it. It’s also for kids whose parents have gone through a divorce, or another hard time in their lives,” Zmistowski said. “It’s a way for them to escape whatever’s going on. That’s our goal, to take their minds off of it.”
The organization works to plan fundraisers and events throughout the year, both on campus and off. The money donated helps fund each child’s trip to camp, covering all expenses and fees. The camp offers children a place to leave the problems and hardships they are facing and to enjoy a free overnight week-long trip at a designated site.
“Being a family member of someone with a disease like cancer is such a stressful, and tolling experience,” Zmistowski said. “This is why we try to keep in touch with the parents and kids even after the camp ends, and just check in and make sure they always know we are there to help. It’s a way to connect and reach out to people who might need us.”
Camp Kesem also plans and hosts many other fundraisers throughout the school year on UMaine’s campus, and will next be fundraising on “Giving Tuesday,” the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The Dog Kissing Booth was the organization’s first donation event of the year.
“I have had personal experience dealing with how cancer can affect a family. My mom had breast cancer twice in my life time, and while I was going through this none of my friends knew what it was like to have this weight on your shoulders,” Zmistowski said. “Knowing that I am helping kids who are going through that is the biggest reward, and we are creating a community where it is safe for kids to open up about their shared experience.”
Camp Kesem is currently looking for student volunteers who are willing to help out, or even apply for an Executive Board position. Students can apply to be counselors and fill other positions during the camp in the summer.
The students involved in Camp Kesem meet in the Memorial Union in the Wade Center on Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. To get in contact with the coordinators or find out more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, Umaine@campkesem.org, or visit https://campkesem.org