In memory of Ojetta V. Holt-Shoffner

The Magic of KidsCAN! and Camp Kesem – David Carroll

When my father was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, it upended my entire life as a 10-year-old. In 2014, he passed away. Although he is no longer with us, our family knew the fight against cancer was far from over. Thanks to support resources such as KidsCAN! and Camp Kesem, our family fights alongside other families against cancer – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  

From the first meeting at KidsCAN!, we knew that we were not alone in the fight. I made friends that not only talked about your average middle school stuff, like Xbox and the newest Marvel movie, but we were also able to talk about shared experiences at home. Understanding that others can truly empathize with you, especially as a kid, allowed for those friendships to be genuine and meaningful. Mom and dad were also able to participate in group sessions with parents. Getting pizza and hanging out each month (as my mother would say, on a “school night”) with friends meant the world. We were able to hang at the hospital, allowing us to not just have negative associations with a place we frequented so often.  

Camp Kesem is also truly a magical experience. Kesem creates opportunities for children to truly create lifelong bonds, and to become the best versions of themselves. As a former camper and current counselor, I have personally grown more caring and empathetic. Whether it was messy games, destroying the competition in a watermelon eating contest, or playing dodgeball and pranking the other cabins, we were able to have the best week of our lives, with other kids who could empathize with us.  

In addition, my sister is a current camper, and not only has become more self-confident and expressed her curiosity to try new things, but she also has created lifelong friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. Part of our college process was ensuring that Camp Kesem would be an opportunity for us to join and give back to an organization that gave us so much.  

The Holt Brothers have allowed families like mine to not only grow closer with other families, but with ourselves. We are extremely grateful for them and the work that they are doing. It truly does change lives. 

Yours in Kesem,  

David “Beef” Carroll


David is a Junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill currently studying abroad in Madrid, majoring in Business Administration and Hispanic Literatures and Cultures (Business and Spanish).