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Magic Makers Spotlight



The Kesem family reaches far and wide. But we think you’ll quickly understand why the following story touches all of us at Kesem in very deep and personal way. 

Jim and Mary Nelson have been incredibly generous supporters of Camp Kesem since they first heard about the organization from their daughter, Jane, who joined Camp Kesem as CEO in December 2010.  Camp Kesem’s volunteer model immediately resonated with Jim and Mary, who have been lifetime advocates of community service and leadership, volunteering extensively to make their communities, churches and schools stronger.

Unfortunately, two months later, Camp Kesem’s mission became very personal for the Nelson family, when Jim and Mary’s middle daughter, Susan, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at age 35.  After a horrific 11 week battle with this brutal disease, Susan passed away, leaving behind three very young children and many wounded hearts.

Together, Eric (Susan’s husband), Jim and Mary elected to have donations sent in memory of Susan to Camp Kesem, and created the Susan Nelson Fleiss Memorial Fund.  Within four months, over $100,000 had been donated by hundreds of individuals who had been touched by Susan’s generous, loving and kind spirit.  Jim and Mary very generously matched those gifts with a personal gift.

Since then, Susan’s Memorial Fund has expanded to include Camp Kesem’s event, Susan’s Magic Makers, held annually on the beach of Santa Monica.  This event was created by a small group of Susan’s close friends, and has since expanded to include over 400 guests.  Through their combined generous personal and emotional support, over $1 million has been raised in Susan’s memory.

The funds raised for Susan’s Memorial Fund have been used to help Camp Kesem reach thousands of more children. In 2014, Camp Kesem served nearly 4,000 children, more than triple the number served in 2010.  None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support of Jim and Mary Nelson, Eric Fleiss, and their extended family and friends.

Though they carry the loss of Susan with them every day, Susan’s Memorial Fund has also given the Nelson family an opportunity to ensure that Susan’s legacy lives on – and that she continues to touch the lives of so many, in such a profoundly positive way.


ck uciWe would like to give special thanks to Edwards Lifesciences, who has been anincredible corporate partner since 2012.

Camp Kesem is incredibly grateful to Edwards Lifesciences for their generous support over the past four years. Edwards Lifesciences was the first corporate partner to provide funding for a new Camp Kesem chapter – at the University of California Irvine.

Not only did Edwards provide investment funding for the chapter, the organization truly partnered with Camp Kesem, helping extensively with student recruitment, university relations, Advisory Board recruitment, and introducing Camp Kesem to local partners, hospitals and oncology centers.

Through this strong support, Camp Kesem UC Irvine held their first camp in 2014, serving 26 children and providing an incredible foundation from which to build on.

In addition, Edwards participated in Camp Kesem’s pioneer corporate partnership model. This model has since been replicated extensively, giving Camp Kesem funding support to vastly accelerate our growth and service expansion.

We are incredibly grateful to Edwards Lifesciences for being such an important partner to Camp Kesem, and for everything the organization has given to Camp Kesem.



So many of our partners have a very personal connection Camp Kesem’s mission – as you will see when reading about Torry and Terrence Holt’s personal story. These two men, through their foundation – the Holt Brothers Foundation – have been incredible supporters of Camp Kesem for many years. We are grateful to stand side-by-side with them in our shared commitment to help children touched by a parent’s cancer.

Torry and Terrence understand the mission of Camp Kesem first-hand.  When they were just 10 and 6 years old, their mother Ojetta was diagnosed with lymphoma. After she passed away, they made a commitment to helping children who have a parent with cancer. The Holt Brothers Foundation was founded to deliver on that promise. The Holt Brothers Foundation has provided support to Camp Kesem over the years, and recently created the Butterfly Grant, which was awarded to six Camp Kesem chapters in 2014, allowing them to expand to two weeks of camp.

On September 20, 2014, Camp Kesem was delighted to honor Torry & Terrence and the Holt Brothers Foundation at Susan’s Magic Makers.  The brothers surprised the audience by generously announcing a $5,000 matching grant that evening.  Their positive spirit inspired event guests all night long.

Torry and Terrence Holt had legendary careers at N.C. State before enjoying tremendous success in the NFL. Torry was named first-team All-American and ACC Player of the Year in 1998, and was selected sixth overall in the 1999 NFL draft. He played 11 seasons in the NFL and was named to the Pro Bowl seven times. A member of the “Greatest Show on Turf”, Torry won the Super Bowl in his rookie season with the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Terrence played safety and earned All-American honors during his senior season in helping the Wolfpack to a school-record 11 wins in 2002. He went on to play six seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints.

It is an honor to work so closely with two individuals who are doing so much to help children affected by a parent’s cancer.


webGenerosity and passion only begin to describe our incredible supporters, Adrienne Grant and Paul Jennings. Because of their commitment to Camp Kesem, we are able to make amazing magic for children. You’ll be moved by this story from our LA-based Susan’s Magic Makers event.

Adrienne and Paul have been very generous supporters of Camp Kesem since they were first introduced to this organization at our fundraising event, Susan’s Magic Makers.  Moved by the mission, Adrienne and Paul joined the Event Host Committee for the 2014 event, and shared their personal story to introduce this organization to many friends, family and colleagues.

Adrienne and Paul truly led by example when they kicked off our “Paddle Raise” at the 2014 event with an inspiring pledge to match the first 30 gifts of $1,000, thereby giving Camp Kesem the seed funding required to start a new college chapter.  Event attendees responded wholeheartedly, and Camp Kesem raised a record $210,000 during our Paddle Raise.  Because of their generous support, Camp Kesem will be opening a new chapter at California State University Northridge in 2015.

A pioneer in the de-regulated telecommunications services for over two decades, Paul Jennings founded Public Communications Services, Inc., which, prior to its sale in 2010, was the third largest provider of inmate telephone systems in the country. Additionally, Paul founded PCS Development, Inc. and has real estate development projects scattered throughout the U.S. and Baja, Mexico.  Mr. Jennings holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from California State University Northridge.

Adrienne received her undergraduate and MBA degrees from UCLA.  After a successful career as an investment strategy consultant, she retired to begin a new career as a full-time mother.

We are extremely grateful to Adrienne and Paul for their incredible support.  Their leadership has put Camp Kesem on a path toward serving a record 5,000 children in Summer 2015.



The word “partner” doesn’t begin to express who the LIVESTRONG Foundation is to Camp Kesem. They are family. They are commitment. And they have allowed us to open so many new Camp Kesem experiences since 2011. Find out why we are so grateful for their friendship.

Camp Kesem remains very grateful for the incredible partnership we have formed with the LIVESTRONG Foundation.  Camp Kesem has been selected (twice!) as recipients of the LIVESTRONG Community Impact Grant, which is given to organizations that demonstrate they have programs that are replicable, meet a unique need, and have significant unmet demand.  Thanks to LIVESTRONG’s support, Camp Kesem was able to open 12 new chapters in 2011 and an additional 12 in 2013, allowing us to extend our services to so many new children and families at 24 communities nationwide.  LIVESTRONG has been an integral and fundamental part of our organization’s growth, both financially and administratively, as well as both nationally, and regionally. LIVESTRONG has been an invaluable partner in helping build awareness for Camp Kesem, through partnership introductions, social media efforts, and highlighting Camp Kesem in all materials available to cancer survivors nationwide.

The LIVESTRONG Foundation fights to improve the lives of people affected by cancer now. Created in 1997, the Foundation is known for providing free cancer support services and advocating for policies that improve access to care and quality of life. Known for its powerful brand – LIVESTRONG – the Foundation has become a symbol of hope and inspiration around the world. Since its inception, the Foundation has served 2.8 million people affected by the disease and raised more than $580 million to support cancer survivors. One of America’s top non-profit organizations, the Foundation has been recognized by industry leaders including Charity Navigator, the National Health Council and the Better Business Bureau for its excellent governance, high standards and transparency.

For more information about LIVESTRONG, please visit LIVESTRONG.org.

Richard & Dara Levy

Honorees Richard and Dara Levy of Winnetka with their daughters by Dawid Klimek

A family tragedy forever changed their lives. But strength, love, and compassion for others moved them forward. Camp Kesem is so honored to be a part of Richard and Dara Levy’s incredible story of making the world a better place.

Richard is the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Investment Officer of Victory Park Capital, and Dara is the owner of Cellular Intelligence Luxury MedSpa.

Camp Kesem’s mission is very personal for the Levy family.  Dara’s first husband died after a five year battle with colon cancer, leaving her with two girls, aged 9 and 11 at the time.  The Levy’s first-hand experience demonstrated the impact cancer has on a family, and what a fantastic lifelong gift it is to allow kids to connect with others who can support them during or after such a traumatic period.

As two-time Event Sponsors of the Family Night at the Museum, Richard and Dara, along with Victory Park Capital and Giordano’s, have helped raise significant awareness and funds for Camp Kesem.  In addition, Richard and Dara have played a very active role in bringing many of Chicago’s top sports, media and financial leaders and organizations together for this very special night. During Family Night at the Museum 2014, the Levy’s sponsored the night’s paddle raise, pledging to match all donations at the $1,000 level up to $30,000.  Because of their generous donation, we are now able to open a chapter at Cornell University for Summer 2015.

We are incredibly humbled and grateful for the Levy’s support of Camp Kesem.