Cabrini volunteers bring hope to West Virginia

By Gianna Shikitino
September 24, 2009

Shannon Keough

Cabrini College’s slogan, “Do something extraordinary,” comes into effect as the College reaches out to a variety of programs in need of help and assistance.

One of the programs is Camp Kismet, a camp for disadvantaged children in West Virginia.

Since 1982, Cabrini College Alumni Association, joined by students, faculty and staff, volunteer as camp counselors every July.

Along with Camp Kismet, Cabrini College works in part with Project Appalachia, also in West Virginia.

Cabrini’s mission in helping and reaching out to those less fortunate continues as members from the college support and volunteer with Camp Kismet.

Hollie Havens, Cabrini alumni ’98, coordinates volunteers, fund-raising and donations for Camp Kismet and has volunteered for five years. Havens, along with Colleen Poole, education field supervisor and education professor, with her daughter Caitlyn Poole, Lauren Bariglio, sophomore elementary and special education major and Jessica Jaxel, Cabrini alumni ’09, were the five volunteers from Cabrini this past July.

“It’s a very intense experience for one week. It feels like we were there for a month,” Poole said. “It was amazing how quickly relationships develop.”

Each year, Camp Kismet brings in around 125 children from poor financial backgrounds in West Virginia to spend a week in the facilities held in the state park in Fayetteville, Va.

“There are some kids that come with only one or two outfits, one pair of underwear, no socks, no sheets, no pillow, et cetera. It’s really sad, but at the same time, you feel the impact you can have. Giving things to people who really need them is so very rewarding,” Jaxel said.

The camp provides educational seminar activities which teach the children awareness with safety, hygiene, environmental and drug and alcohol programs in affiliation with community groups in West Virginia.

The children experience a vacation like none other as they have planned a week filled with activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, white water rafting in New River, Va., roller skating and rock climbing.

Jaxel recalls on her experience entering the Kismet camp. “As soon as I walked into the dining hall the day we arrived, I was greeted with not only smiling, cheerful people, but with hugs from total strangers. The whole air of the atmosphere is just different there. I cannot wait to go back,” Jaxel said.

“In the beginning, the kids were calm, but towards the end they were upset because they realized they had to go home,” Poole said.

The group of Cabrini staff, faculty and alumni counselors bring donated clothing, new sneakers and a brand new backpack filled with supplies for each child participating in the camp.

“I think the most important thing for this camp, the thing it needs most, is publicity. There is literally no way someone could go there and not want to return. The experience is truly moving,” Jaxel said. “Not solely because you’re there helping kids who genuinely deserve your help and time, but the amazingly strong sense of family presented by the volunteers of Fayetteville County.”

Poole hopes that the awareness of participating in Kismet will spread throughout campus so hopeful students and staff will become involved.

“I think the biggest impact for me is relationship and how intent it is in five days. I only knew them [children in the Kismet camp] for five days and they will be with me for life,” Poole said.

“It’s so funny, but when I came back from just one short week, I really missed the girls I had spent literally every moment with. We became more than just counselors, we were their friends,” Jaxel said. “As we stood there saying goodbye to them, Lauren and I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. I could feel myself welling up and thinking, ‘How could I not go back and see these kids again next year?’ There’s just no way; I have to go back.”

Without counselors, Camp Kismet cannot operate. Students and faculty interested in volunteering for Camp Kismet 2010 can contact the Alumni Office at

Gianna Shikitino

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