A Child’s Friend Through and Beyond a Parent’s Cancer

by Hawa Adula 

“Camp means everything to me. I can be with my friends and not have to worry and I love being with the counselors. It is an escape from pain. I can be myself for a while and just feel free. I get so scared for my mom, but at Camp Kesem I can just be me.” – A Camp Kesem Camper

In 2012, the number of people living with cancer was 13,776,251. As of today, the estimated number of new cases in the United States is 1,658,370. While cancer can not be biased, the National Center for Health Statistics observed that there were more cases of cancer among whites but higher death rates amongst African American’s with cancer.

It is hard to remember that each statistic stands for a real person living with an incurable disease and that they are not the only ones that struggle. Their families and friends live with the pain of having a loved one diagnosed with cancer. In particular, children with parents that have been diagnosed with cancer no longer have the opportunity to live an ordinary childhood. Instead, their lives are filled with the uncertainty of whether or not their mom or dad will survive another day.

This is where Camp Kesem comes in. Camp Kesem is an organization, started in 2001 by Iris Rave, that seeks to transcend the pain and uncertainty that comes with having a parent battling cancer by inviting children who have parents with cancer to attend camp. The camp is a 4-7 day overnight program headed by dedicated counselors chosen from a variety of colleges and universities around the United States. Camp Kesem started with one university, Stanford University, in 2001 and now extends to 62.

In order for Camp Kesem to provide free camp, chapters at each university or college fund raise throughout the year. Some examples of fundraisers include Giving Tuesday. #Givingtuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a national day of giving back to charitable organizations such as Camp Kesem. All chapters get involved in Giving Tuesday and individually make find different ways to make the event unique to the specific chapter.

If you know a child, or multiple, who could benefit from Kesem, sign them up! The first round of applications will open on December 15, 2015 for returning campers and the second round, which is open to everyone, will open on January 15, 2016. Visit campkesem.org for more info.