What is Camp Kesem?

Monday, October 15, 2012
By, lauren ellis
Camp Kesem –Hebrew word for “magic” – is a place created to bring just that, MAGIC, to the lives of children who have a parent who is currently in remission of, battling, or has passed from cancer. There are 1.7 million cancer cases a year in the United States that affect individuals and their families. The support is there for grown-ups; but the special emotional needs of children of adult cancer patients have been overlooked.  Simply put: kids are often left to deal with these personal tragedies on their own; and if parents themselves are struggling with illness, their sons and daughters frequently miss the simply joys of childhood.

The mission of Camp Kesem is two-fold:

  • To provide kids whose parents have or have had cancer with a summer camp experience that gives them a chance to be kids
  • To allow college students to channel their passion for making a difference, while developing critical leadership skills for long term social impact

For the past ten summers, Camp Kesem – a volunteer college-student-run summer camp – has provided plenty of laughs and lots of emotional but non-therapeutic support.  This week of sleep-away fun and friendships forged in a safe, compassionate and cancer-aware environment had its beginnings in 2000, when four Stanford University student leaders, under the guidance of Hillel staff member Iris Rave, chose to change the lives of children in their northern California community. After researching the need, the students quickly decided they wanted to serve the children of cancer patients – a very underserved demographic. The group chose the word Kesem, which means “magic” in Hebrew, because its goal was to bring “magic” to families coping with cancer. Since its inception, Camp Kesem has been open to student leaders and campers of any religion, race or ethnicity.

Thanks to the hard work of those first student leaders, Camp Kesem at Stanford hosted 37 campers at its first one-week summer camp in 2001.  Since the inaugural year, Camp Kesem grew from 1 camp with 37 campers in 2001, to 23 camps with over 1200 campers in 2011.  Still yet, due to the assistance of the LIVESTRONG Community Impact Project, Camp Kesem will host 37 camps in 21 states, serving close to 2,000 campers during Summer 2012. This growth is something which will bring a week of fun, friendships, laughter, and playing in the sun to almost 500 more children in the United States through the hard work and dedication of committed volunteer college students across the country.

For more information about Camp Kesem or to find a camp near you, please go to our website: www.campkesem.org.

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