- Route: Sierra
- Ride Year: 2018
- Hometown: Houston, TX
- School Year: Senior
- Major: B.S. Nutritional Sciences, B.S. Human Biology
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello friends, family, and kind souls who found their way here! My name is Samantha Finkenstaedt, which is quite the mouthful - it was a spelling word in my first grade class, all my classmates were thrilled. Though my brother and I were born in New York, we’ve called Houston, TX “home” for the past twenty or so years. Growing up, some of my favorite memories were getting woken up by either my brother or the dogs running into my room to jump on my bed with Dean Martin’s “Ain’t that a Kick in the Head” playing downstairs - signaling pancakes were ready and it was time to start the day. Everyone says this about their families, but my mom, dad, and brother really are the best people in the entire world. I love to laugh more than just about anything else. I’m also a big fan of reading (“When Breath Becomes Air” is hands down my favorite and you NEED to read it), running, swimming, and listening to movie scores/broadway show tunes - shout out to Lin Manuel Miranda if he happens to see this.
I am a fifth year at The University of Texas at Austin double majoring in Nutritional Sciences and Human Biology. I would love to find a way to utilize both degrees in whatever career path I choose to follow -whether it be integrative medicine or aiding in reducing the childhood obesity epidemic. In addition to Texas 4000, I have been involved with Camp Kesem for the past three years, interned for LIVESTRONG, remained peripherally involved in Women in Natural Sciences, and found a home lifeguarding at Gregory Gymnasium.
Why I Ride
I found Camp Kesem my sophomore year of college and my only regret is I wish I had found it as a freshman. Camp Kesem is a student run, non-profit organization dedicated to helping children through and beyond a parent’s cancer. More than that though - Kesem is about creating a second family for kids going through the unimaginable. When I initially received the news I was selected to be a counselor at camp in the blue unit my first year and pink unit my second year, I was “tickled pink”! Going in to camp, I anticipated being a role model for my campers, but I never would have imagined some of my heroes would be 6-9 years old.
As a counselor and unit lead for the 6 to 9 year-old girls, during the first part of the week it was almost easy to forget the challenges my campers had been through; the thing that brought them all together - Cancer. I spent a majority of my time at camp watching them play and interact; watching them form friendships that will last a lifetime. Some of my favorite camp moments are the smallest moments - meal times when they would try to find the most accurate way to describe a chocolate chip cookie, or smash mustard and chips together just because why not?
The Wednesday night at camp is a particularly difficult night for both campers and counselors as this is the night our campers are given the opportunity to share their experiences with cancer. My first year of camp, I sat next to a camper named Hermione during the Empowerment ceremony. Hermione is incredibly emotionally and intellectually intelligent, she’s funny, her smile + laugh combo will make your heart feel like it’s getting a hug, and she’s the best armpit fart-er in the state of Texas. Before entering the hall my first year, Hermione had no desire to share her experience but was game to listen and support her friends and other campers as they shared their experiences.
After listening to several campers and counselors share their stories, Hermione tugged on my sleeve. I looked down to see a tear slowly running down her cheek as she told me she wanted to share her story. When the microphone reached her, she bravely shared her experience with cancer and how it had taken her dad from her. As she shared, tears continued to roll down her face and when she had finished all she could manage to say, she threw the microphone into my lap and squeezed me with a sadness that I don’t know.
For Hermione, it doesn’t get easier for her. She never got to know her dad and he never got to know the beautiful girl he created. Hermione continued to teach me how to be a more caring and empathetic being when she remarked this past year during empowerment: “it’s just so sad…to hear that from someone so young. He shouldn’t have to go through that.” The boy she was talking about could not have been much older than Hermione, but the empathy, compassion and wisdom beyond her years displayed in that moment stunned me. How beautiful the world would be if everyone could display a fraction of human understanding and kindness Hermione whispered during empowerment.
So I ride for Hermione. I ride for all my blunit (blue unit) girls and pink ladies. I ride for all the Camp Kesem kiddos. I ride for those continuing their fight with cancer and those supporting them in their fight.