Feature Story

A Humble Servant Leader, Southern Miss Alumnus Combines Experience and Passion

By: Marie John Roberts 11’, 12’

Combining her experience in the healthcare industry with a passion to serve the pediatric cancer population, Roz Dorsett ‘08, has made a career out of “providing fun for kids with cancer.”

The child and family studies graduate and Mobile, Ala., native worked as a child life specialist in the Atlanta area for a few years after graduating, and became heavily involved with a camp for children in the area. “When we moved back to Mobile, Ala., I began the job search that lasted a few months. I heard about this job and it was the perfect fit for me,” Dorsett shared.

Dorsett, who is an alumnae of the Delta Pi chapter of Delta Gamma sorority, was also involved with Southern Style, GEWW Crew and Lambda Sigma as an undergraduate while at Southern Miss. Emphasizing her degree with a focus on child life, as well as minor in Spanish, Dorsett utilizes the material learned from coursework at Southern Miss on a daily basis.

Now, Dorsett makes a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of children through her work as the Assistant Director of Camp Rap-A-Hope, a summer camp for children between the ages of seven and 17 who have or have had cancer. The free camp includes all things that a summer camp traditionally offers –horseback riding, arts and crafts, canoeing, archery, etc.

Dorsett’s role as Assistant Director of Camp Rap-A-Hope includes planning camp week and other annual events, as well as attending fundraisers and processing camper and staff registrations. “If you know of any child that fits within this, tell them about us,” Dorsett said.

Camp Rap-A-Hope also offers additional opportunities for fun throughout the year. Family fun days and holiday parties are a few ways that camp continues the fun for campers and their families.

Funded solely by generous donations from individuals, corporations, memorials and honorariums, Camp Rap-A-Hope creates lifelong memories for Dorsett and the camp’s participants: “Not long after I began working with Camp Rap-A-Hope, I had the privilege of hearing a camper's parent speak about what camp means to her. She began to tell the story of her daughter and her love for camp, and eventually she got to the part of their story where they learned that there were no more treatment options for her. She illustrated what it was like for them as parents and for their adolescent daughter to learn of her impending death. She then said that the doctor asked her daughter if she had any questions, and she responded with: ‘My family is going to miss me,’ and ‘Will I still be able to go to camp?’

For Dorsett, this enriching experience is both humbling and motivational: “To be a contributing part of something that makes this much of a difference in a child's life –a child who has had to endure far more than a child should ever have to endure –is enough inspiration for a lifetime!”

This year, Camp Rap-A-Hope was programmed around a circus theme, “Cirque du Hope: The Greatest Camp on Earth,” and challenged campers to relate to the daily circus animal highlighted each morning.

“Specifically, one of the day's animals was a tiger,” Dorsett said. “We focused on the stripes that every tiger has. What do the stripes mean? They are unique to the tiger and make up who the tiger is. We focused on the fact that everyone has bumps, bruises, and scars. These are our tiger stripes that make us who we are.”

At Camp Rap-A-Hope, every camper has endured cancer and has one or multiple scars from the journey. For Dorsett, this experience is awe-inspiring: “To sit back and watch them courageously and proudly compare and share their ‘tiger stripes’ in front of the whole camp was humbling.”

Dorsett’s future goal for Camp Rap-A-Hope is simple: to reach more children and their families. “The passion that I saw in the both University faculty, Dr. Julie Parker and Dr. Ann Blackwell, working with children and families has directly impacted my career. They both invested in me as a student and therefore instilled in me the vision of how I wanted to serve children and families. I am indebted to them for who I have become in the professional world, which is hopefully someone who is viewed as a servant leader.”