I love finding new resources for patients with cancer — or for their families and caregivers. This week, I discovered a new one, and I love the concept of it.
Camp Kesem is a college-student run, week-long summer camp for children with a parent who has – or had – cancer. Kesem means “magic” in Hebrew, and Camp Kesem’s goal is to bring magic into the lives of kids who are coping with the effects of cancer in their family. The camp organizers have expanded the definition to suit their goals and purposes, and I love how they have modified it:
Kesem (n.): magic; the ability to change a life; an agent of growth; the unique power that transforms kids into Camp Kesem Campers.
The first week-long sleepover camp was held in 2001 at Stanford. From that initial camp at that one university, Camp Kesem now has 23 camps across the country, affiliated with a variety of colleges and universities.
The beauty of this camp is that it is completely free for campers, kids ages 6 to 16. Cancer puts such financial and emotional strain on families, so the goal of the organization is to not add to that stress, but instead allow kids to be kids, for at least a week of the summer.
University of Florida has a local chapter of Camp Kesem, and this year, their 5th annual summer camp is from August 5th through 10th.
I asked Lauren Light, the co-chair for the UF Chapter, what got her interested working with the camp, something she’s done for the past four years.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 16, and while it was caught early and she has been in remission, it was still a scary concept. The idea of the camp really appealed to me- a place for kids where they can connect with others and just have an incredibly fun week, while their parents can relax and take care of themselves without worry. I love watching it grow and become bigger and better each year, serving more and more deserving families. The things I enjoy most are when the kids don’t want to leave, their parents tell us how much they talk about us after camp, and when our campers say things like “Camp Kesem is better than Christmas!”.
If you’d like to volunteer time or donate to Camp Kesem, either to support the national organization or an individual camp near you, you’ll be making a real impact on these children’s lives. And if you live in north Florida and know a child with a parent who is dealing with cancer, pass on the local camp information to them.