More than 5 million kids experience the pain of living through a parent’s fight against cancer. Camp Kesem is there to assuage the difficulties that these children face.
“Camp Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer,” said Ana San Martin and Alexa Mellon, Penn State students and co-directors of Camp Kesem Central PA.
Camp Kesem is a national organization that has expanded since its founding at Stanford University in 2000. For this unique population of kids, Camp Kesem is often the best week of the year. Unfortunately, many of kids at the camp have been forced to grow up much faster than their peers. The camp allows children touched by their parent’s cancer to reclaim their childhood.
Camp Kesem currently hosts more than 90 summer camps in 38 different states. Additionally, the program continues to grow. The basic premise of Camp Kesem is that it provides a peer-support network, builds confidence, and strengthens the communication skills of children ages 6 to 18 who helped their parents battle cancer.
“At Kesem, every camper is tied together because each of them has a parent affected by cancer. Because of this, camp is a place where these kids are able to find life-long friends. The campers understand and support each other throughout the entire year,” the co-directors said.
Camp Kesem Central PA is run by 85 student volunteers who work to support 90 campers each year. However, volunteering at Camp Kesem is a year-long process — with each of the volunteers working to raise the money they need to run the camp.
“Camp Kesem gives children the opportunity to be kids for a week,” the directors said. “It gives them a chance to have fun and release the burdens they carry each day at home.” Campers take part in different activities depending on their age. Younger campers tend to enjoy playing games while older campers enjoy getting to know each other.
There are many ways for the Penn State community to get involved in Camp Kesem. Every year, a group of students are chosen to work as counselors. This year, the counselors have already been selected, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year.
Also, the Camp Kesem staff is in need of nurses interested in joining this summer. The directors are looking for anyone holding an RN, LPN/LVN, or NP certification or license. These staff members make Camp Kesem possible. There is also an advisory board for Camp Kesem Central PA in State College for any individuals in the community trying to get involved.
Camp Kesem Central PA will take place from August 13-18 at Camp Chen-A-Wanda in Thompson, PA. Anyone interested in getting involved or learning more about Camp Kesem should email [email protected] or check out the website.
The co-directors of Camp Kesem Central PA told us that the camp must continue to expand in order to meet the needs of the large population of children who qualify.
“Camp Kesem gives kids the opportunity to share their story surrounded by others who understand and support them. Campers leave feeling an incredible sense of family and support as they find themselves surrounded by children who understand them.”