Children who have a parent with cancer are invited to enjoy a weeklong summer camp with their peers, free of worries, thanks to UC Davis student volunteers who organize Camp Kesem.
Camp Kesem is held June 20-25 at Leoni Meadows in Somerset and has 120 spots open for children ages 6 to 16. Nearly 50 UCD is students serve as counselors and work all year to fundraise and plan for the week. They also undergo 40-plus hours of extensive training prior to camp.
The Camp Kesem program model was founded in 2000 at Stanford University. Since then it has grown into a national organization, with 37 camps held in the summer of 2012.
Camp Kesem campers participate in a host of activities, including sports, drama, arts and crafts, team-building, scavenger hunts and talent shows. In addition, each night before bed, the campers have “Cabin Chats,” a time for the campers to talk and open up to their peers and counselors.
With 1.7 million cancer cases a year in the United States, there are more than 3 million kids who are affected by a parent’s cancer. The support is there for the adults, but the special emotional needs of children of adult cancer patients have been overlooked, a news release said.
“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 simple joys of childhood,” the release said.
Camp Kesem adviser Dr. Michael Amylon, pediatric oncologist at Stanford Hospital, emphasizes the importance of an experience like Kesem.
“These kids have their world knocked right out from under them, and often they have nowhere to turn to get help and support,” Amylon said. “Camp Kesem provides a magical place of respite and play, and a group of other kids in the same situation who understand what it’s all about and can offer unique and important peer understanding and friendship.”
The original Stanford University 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.
To apply for one of the 120 no-cost camper spots and to get more information on Camp Kesem at UCD, visit campkesem.org/ucdavis.