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Camp Kesem

Where Magic Happens


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Camp Kesem is by big kids for little kids whose parents have cancer. Anchored in a network of free summer camps, Camp Kesem provides a peer-based support system for children affected by a parent’s cancer. Led by the passionate efforts of college students across the country, Camp Kesem offers what these kids need most – support, courage, empathy, and fun – as they face realities no child should have to face.

More than three million kids in the United States live with a parent who has cancer, and Camp Kesem recognizes and embraces this often-overlooked population of children. Because they don’t appear sick, their needs often go unnoticed and they suffer quietly, which can lead to academic, social, emotional, and developmental problems.

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Founded at Stanford University in 2000, Camp Kesem has grown rapidly since its establishment. Existing in 27 states nationwide, Camp Kesem’s 54 college chapters will serve more than 3,500 children ages 6 through 16 this summer.

Camp Kesem’s summer camps provide a unique, compassionate envi­ronment where kids can just be kids. Throughout the academic year, campers and their families are invited to seasonal reunions where they can reconnect with their peers and receive additional support resources on a national and regional level.

Through Camp Kesem, college students and counselors-in-training vol­unteer their time to learning leadership skills and receive year-round training to ultimately organize and run their own camp. Additionally, Camp Kesem en­gages alumni, community leaders, and campers’ families through advisory boards, alumni associations, and its board of directors.

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“To me, Camp Kesem is a home away from home, and the people are like my family. Because we have all been through tough times, we can relate to each other on a whole other level, and we have created such unexplainable bonds,” says one camper. “Camp Kesem is a safe place to get away for a while and talk about all the things that have been bothering you, but it is also a place to just have fun and enjoy the week with such amazing people. Camp Kesem has changed my life. I honestly don’t know where I would be if I had never joined the Kesem family!”

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For more information on Camp Kesem, including camp schedules, locations, and applications, visit Find Camp Kesem on Facebook (, and on Twitter and Instagram (@CampKesem).

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2014.