Camp Kesem arrests students and faculty to fundraise for cancer


Emily Ng

English professor Dr. James Cox, organic chemistry professor Dr. Brent Iverson, and junior human biology major Camille Alilaen demonstrate a funny dance in order to get out of jail on Speedway on Wednesday afternoon. To fundraise for Camp Kesem, students and faculty were arrested in class and brought to a jail in exchange for donations.

Alexandra Dubinsky

When English professor James Cox and chemistry professor Brent Iverson were arrested Wednesday morning, the only way they could receive bail was by following members of Camp Kesem in a sing-a-long and dance song on Speedway in front of thousands passing by.

Camp Kesem, a college student-run summer camp, free of charge for children whose parents have or had cancer, held a jail-a-thon fundraiser to reach their goal of $40,000. Professors were willingly arrested if their students raised enough money while students were able to donate $5 to arrest anyone.  

After visiting the camp last summer, Iverson, whose twin daughters, Alexandra and Alanna Iverson, cofounded the chapter at UT, said the scene of the children was so moving that he came back a changed person.

“When cancer affects family, it affects more than one person,” Brent Iverson said. “The kids get the brunt of it. It takes a financial toll on the family and this gives them the opportunity to just be a kid which is oftentimes the best thing you can provide for families affected by cancer.”

According to Alanna, Camp Kesem received its grant from the Livestrong Foundation in 2011. While the first week-long session occurred in 2012, Alanna said she could see the transformation unravel from both campers and counselors.

“The camp was more amazing than words can say,” Alanna said. “Getting to see the growth in such a short time was incredible.”

Last summer, 24 kids attended the camp, and this summer the organization expects to double its attendance according to psychology senior Rebecca Torres. With about 19 counselors on site, two nurses and a therapist, Torres said the program corresponds to the needs of the children accordingly by providing a balance between fun and guidance.

“I went to a camp that was similar when I was a young kid, and it meant so much to me, and I remember I loved it, especially all the counselors,” Torres said. “That experience drives me more to make sure they have just as good of an experience as I did and to let them know they have a second family here with Kesem.”

On May 4, Camp Kesem will be hosting a “Share the Magic” fundraising event at The Upper Decks from 4:30 to 7:30. Ten percent of the profits will go directly to funding the camp.