University Park, Centre County, Pa. - "I fell in love with camp as a camper for everything that it is. I had so much fun. I just like learned who I was, I learned how to open up and be myself," Camp Kesem Central PA Director Alexa "Aya" Mellon said.
It was at camp where Alexa Mellon learned how to cope with her mother's cancer diagnosis. Mellon was 12-years-old when it happened but years later -- while her mother was in remission -- she went to a camp that changed her life.
"I decided to go to Camp Kesem -- thinking that it wasn't something I needed and I found this family I didn't know I needed," Mellon said.
Now she's a counselor.
"We have campers that have a parent that currently has cancer, has passed away from cancer, or is in remission," Mellon said.
Camp Kesem is completely free and supported by donations and fundraisers.
"We didn't do any fundraising before this day. We decided to do it all on Giving Tuesday," Mellon said.
But the camp never imagined getting so close to its $95,000 goal.
"We literally used social media to raise $71, 000...in 24 hours. Which is insane," Mellon said.
"It's so incredible. And to these kids it's more than just one week at camp. It's the entire year of the support that we provide...all of them go the entire year counting down until they get to go to camp again. So, there's nothing else like it," Camp Kesem Central PA Co-Director Peyton "Paws" Haefner said.
And counselors are getting a life lesson too.
"I think I've just grown to be a better person too. You learn to appreciate things that you might not appreciate. When you see what these kids are going through and you see how innocent they are, and how unfair their situation is," Camp Kesem Central PA Volunteer Coordinator Jack "Buzz" Durbin said.
But for Mellon, it's all about helping the kids -- just like Camp Kesem helped her.
"My mom had cancer, but I can't relate to every single camper. But I can be there for every single camper," Mellon said.
For anyone that would like to donate, CLICK HERE.
Updates on when applications for camp can be found HERE.
Anyone that could benefit from the camp or knows someone that could can email the organization at centralpa.outreach@campkesem.