Our History

The History of



Iris Rave, a then-student at Stanford University, worked with Hillel to help four student leaders set up Camp Kesem. The 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. Camp Kesem would provide plenty of laughs and lots of emotional but non-therapeutic support, all forged in a safe, compassionate and cancer-aware environment of fun and friendship.


Thanks to the hard work of many student leaders, Camp Kesem at Stanford hosted 37 campers at its inaugural week of Camp Kesem. Word quickly spread and the Stanford student leaders encouraged their friends at colleges across the country to replicate Camp Kesem in their communities.


Iris Rave founded Camp Kesem National in August based on the success of her Camp Kesem project at Stanford. The goal was to help college students from coast to coast to start similar programs.

Every year since…

Camp Kesem has improved upon its model, finding new tools for inspiring and empowering students so they can become better leaders who run even richer and more fruitful Camp Kesem programs.


LiveSTRONG chose Camp Kesem as part of their Community Impact Project, which funded the replication of Camp Kesem at 12 new universities with seed funding of $10,000 per campus.


  • LiveSTRONG chose Camp Kesem for the Community Impact Project again, which will help 12 additional universities host their inaugural weeks of camp in the summer of 2014.
  • Camp Kesem launched an exciting new program with some friends in the NFL called Scoring for Good. Currently teamed up with NFL players Aldon Smith, Tyler Polumbus, and EJ Manuel, this program raises awareness of and funds for Camp Kesem. It’s simple: for every sack participating defensive players make during the football season, and for every touchdown scored by participating offensive players, that player will pledge to send a child to Camp Kesem.holt logo
  • The Holt Brothers Foundation, founded by NFL brothers Torry and Terrence Holt to improve the quality of life for children and families dealingwith cancer, announced the formation of the Holt Brothers Butterfly Grant to fund a second week of summer camp for children at CK North Carolina. The Butterfly Grant was named by the Holts because it represents the perfect transition from Camp Kesem’s mascot (a caterpillar), which takes two weeks to transform into a butterfly. In addition to providing this extra week of camp for North Carolina children in 2013, the grant will assist in other chapters across the country with implementing a second week of programs beginning in 2014.

kesem green bar


 Year  Campers  Student
 2001 37  40  1
 2002  49  40  1
 2003  98  83  3
 2004  189  64  4
 2005  341  89  8
 2006  459  140  9
 2007  603  274  15
 2008  859  340  20
 2009  1,060  989  22
 2010  1,206  822  23
 2011  1,480  991  23
2012  2,108  1,300  37
2013 54
2014 62
 Total 62



Chapter Year
City Chapter Year
Stanford University 2001 Palo Alto, CA University of Georgia 2012 Athens, GA
Duke & University of North Carolina 2003 Durham, NC University of Washington 2012 Seattle, WA
University of Notre Dame 2003 South Bend, IN University of Minnesota 2012 Minneapolis, MN
UCSD 2004 San Diego, CA Columbia University 2012 New York, NY
Indiana University 2005 Bloomington, IN VUniversity of Missouri 2012 Columbia, MO
UCLA 2005 Los Angeles, CA Ohio State University 2012 Columbus, OH
Northwestern University 2005 Evanston, IL Syracuse University 2013 Syracuse, NY
UC Davis 2005 Davis, CA University of Nebraska 2013 Lincoln, NE
University of Virginia 2006 Charlottesville, VA University of Oklahoma 2013 Norman, OK
University of Illinois 2007 Champaign, IL University of Southern California 2013 Los Angeles, CA
MIT 2007 Boston, MA Santa Clara University 2013 Santa Clara, CA
Arizona State University 2007 Phoenix, AZ University of California Santa Cruz 2013 Santa Cruz, CA
UC Berkeley 2007 Berkeley, CA  University of California Irvine 2013 Irvine, CA
Michigan State University 2007 East Lansing, MI BYU-Idaho 2013
Texas A&M University 2008 College Station, TX Rice University 2013 Houston, TX
Brigham Young University 2008 Provo, UT Saint Louis University 2013 Saint Louis, MO
University of Florida 2008 Gainesville, FL Case Western Reserve University 2013 Cleveland, OH
George Washington University 2008 Washington, D.C. Yale University 2013 New Haven, CT
Camp Kesem Miami 2008 Miami, FL Penn State University 2013 State College, PA
Emory University 2009 Atlanta, GA College of William & Mary 2013 Williamsburg, VA
University of Richmond 2009 Richmond, VA Virginia Commonwealth University 2013 Richmond, VA
University of Wisconsin 2010 Madison, WI Stony Brook University 2013 Stony Brook, NY
University of Michigan 2011 Ann Arbor, MI University of Colorado Boulder 2013 Boulder, CO
University of Oregon 2012 Eugene, OR Carnegie Mellon University 2014 Pittsburgh, PA
University of Pennsylvania 2012 Philadelphia, PA Princeton University 2014 Princeton, NJ
Vanderbilt University 2012 Nashville, TN University of South Alabama 2014 Mobile, IL
Johns Hopkins University 2012 Baltimore, MD California State University, Fresno 2014 Fresno, CA
Southern Utah University 2012 Cedar City, UT University of California Santa Barbara 2014 Santa Barbara, CA
University of Texas – Austin 2012 Austin, TX Elon University 2014 Elon, NC
Augustana College 2012 Rock Island, IL Boston College 2014 Chestnut Hill, MA
Florida State University 2012 Tallahassee, FL Cornell 2014 Ithaca, NY