What is Camp Kesem?
Camp Kesem is a network of college student run summer camps and social circles for kids with a parent who has (or has had) cancer. The one-week sleep away camps are a chance for kids ages 6-16 to have a fun- and activity-filled week and just be kids. Everything we do at Camp Kesem focuses on our goal of giving campers the most fun week possible, while providing the extra support and attention that they need. Learn more about our program by clicking here.
What does Kesem mean?
Kesem means “magic” in Hebrew. The founders of Camp Kesem chose Kesem because their goal was to bring magic to families coping with cancer. More recently, we’ve developed a more detailed definition of what Kesem means to us.
Kesem (n.): magic; the ability to change a life; an agent of growth; the unique power that transforms kids into Camp Kesem Campers
Is Camp Kesem a religious camp?
No, Camp Kesem is a secular camp and is open to student volunteers and campers of all backgrounds.
How old are the campers? How long are the camps?
Camp Kesem campers are ages 6-16. We also have a Counselor-in-Training program for campers aged 16-18. All of our camps are held for one week. We are an overnight camp program.
Do families pay to send their children to Camp Kesem?
No. Due to the financial burden placed on families coping with cancer, Camp Kesem camp programs are offered entirely free of charge. Families are invited to donate to support Camp Kesem. Click here to make a donation online now!
Does Camp Kesem provide therapy for campers? What does the Camp Mental Health Professional do?
No, Camp Kesem does not provide therapy for campers. There is a Camp Mental Health Professional on staff at every camp to coach counselors and help counselors work with campers in especially challenging situations or emergencies. The Camp Mental Health Professional is involved in counselor training, and is mainly at camp to serve as an advisor to counselors. Camp Mental Health Professionals do NOT practice one-on-one therapy with campers.
What makes Camp Kesem different from other camps?
We realize that children of cancer patients have additional needs- and we address them by giving them extra attention and support. Camp Kesem has a 3:1 camper to counselor ratio to ensure that campers receive extra attention. These counselors ensure that camp is a safe, supportive, high-energy, and fun place for every camper. Also, our counselors facilitate “cabin chats” each night.
What is a “Cabin Chat”?
“Cabin Chats” give everyone in the cabin the chance to speak in a comfortable atmosphere about anything on their mind- from thoughts on their day at camp to their experiences at home- their favorite color to their favorite vacation. Everyone is encouraged to participate.
Besides the college student counselors, are there other adults at camp?
The Camp Advisor, Camp Nurse, and Camp Mental Health Professional, and much of the program staff are college-graduates over 21 years old. Additionally, all of the camp counselors are older than 18 years old and undergo a thorough application and screening process to become counselors. Camp Advisors are college graduates who are specially trained and selected by Camp Kesem’s National Office. To be selected to be a Camp Advisor, one must have significant Camp Kesem experience and have excelled while a leader of a Camp Kesem program. Also, most campsites that Camp Kesem operates at have professional camp staff to support the Camp Kesem leadership team.
Do the counselors receive any special training?
Yes. Counselors are rigorously trained on camp safety, communication, behavior management, emergency and medical procedures, grief and mourning. The Camp Mental Health Professional, Camp Advisor, and Camp Nurse are also all involved in the counselor training program.
What do campers do at Camp Kesem?
Please visit the “A Day at Camp” section of our website to see a sample schedule for a day at Camp Kesem.
Where do the camps take place?
Each Camp Kesem college chapter chooses where they wish to hold their camp program. Campuses rent an off-site camp facility for the week of camp. Campsites that we rent are ACA accredited, and are often YMCA, Girl Scout, or other professional camping venues. Please visit each camp’s website for details on their specific site.
What impact does the camp have on the children served?
Based on post-camp surveys completed by campers and parents, the two most significant ways in which Camp Kesem programs impact children are: 1) Increased self-esteem and 2) Increase in number of friendships with children who have/had a parent with cancer. Please see our Rave Reviews page to read direct quotes from our campers, parents and student leaders.