It may seem like the typical summer camp, but Camp Kesem is more than camp songs and creative nicknames. A national organization created by college students, it’s a camp for kids who have a parent with cancer, a place where children can relax during a stressful time.
This week, the Fresno State chapter of Camp Kesem begins its third year hosting the week-long camp for over 40 local kids.
Thanks to donations, Camp Kesem is totally free for campers. Surrounded by people who know what they’re going through, many campers build lifelong connections. They learn that they’re not the only ones going through what they’re going through, and they get the chance to be kids without having to deal with the stresses of their life for one week. Often, campers and counselors return year after year.
What to Expect At Camp Kesem
The first thing to know about Camp Kesem is that campers and counselors go by a camp name of their choosing. According to Emma “Freckles” DenBesten, “This creates a fun atmosphere allowing our campers to escape from all of the stress of living with a parent with a cancer diagnosis.”
As children run around with names like “Sabertooth,” they also get to do all the typical summer camp kid stuff. Campfire skits, crafts, and even something called “Messy Wars” make for a fun week. In the evenings, cabin chats take place. With a counselor to camper ratio of 1:3, every child gets the opportunity to talk about whatever they want.
Having fun and doing things like making “counselor sundaes” from chocolate syrup and whipped cream gives these kids the break they deserve. The counselors have fun, too. Everyone at Camp Kesem is dedicated to serving kids with parents affected by cancer, and families are grateful.
As one mom explains, “My four children had an awesome time at Camp Kesem. They went from feeling like they were a bizarre minority in a world that doesn’t relate, to feeling normal and supported (not pitied). They came home positively elated and so very looking forward to next year! The program and staff are top notch! I was so impressed as a parent that it brought me to tears.”
Here’s How You Can Get Involved
If you know a kid who would benefit from a week at Camp Kesem, or if you are looking to volunteer, you can fill out a form here. This year’s camp starts August 5, so it’s likely you’ll be on a waiting list for next year. However, it’s still important to fill it out so you’ll be first to be notified about next year’s camp!
Additionally, since all camps are funded by donations, you can help out by making a donation. More information on how to donate and other ways to be involved is on the Camp Kesem website here.
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