In the News

Student-run camp assists children of cancer patients

By Eileen Mellon, Special to the Citizen
Henrico Citizen

Barbie Quick, a 47-year-old data entry specialist, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. She has been in remission four times since then and endured a long and expensive road to recovery – one that she hasn’t taken alone. Quick’s daughters Kristin, 12, and Rebecca, 15, have dealt with their mom’s cancer for more than half their lives, which hasn’t left them much opportunity simply to be kids.

That’s why Quick turned to Camp Kesem.

“I heard about the camp from a nurse and social worker and thought it was a great place for my daughters to get away from the cancer and not worry about anything and just be kids,” said Quick, who also serves on the Camp Kesem University of Richmond Advisory Board. “I wanted them to know they weren’t the only ones going through this.”

The camp is a free nationwide, weeklong overnight summer camp for children ages 4 to 16 that is meant to provide a supportive and fun experience for children whose parents have been affected by cancer. It is vital to the children it serves, because there are few services in the Richmond area to help them cope with their situation, according to Marissa Parker, director of the Camp Kesem University of Richmond Chapter.

“Cancer affects more than just the person whose cells it attacks,” Parker said. “The disease wreaks havoc on the entire family, though they bear no signs of illness. Children who have a parent with cancer are especially in need of support – their childhood is put on hold as they deal with the fear that results from a parent’s illness.”

Camp is free to all participants
Since its founding in 2000 at Stanford University, Camp Kesem has grown to 54 camps in 27 states. The Camp Kesem University of Richmond chapter was founded in 2009 by a group of student volunteers. Quick’s daughters have been going ever since.

“When I picked them up after camp was over, they were so excited and wanted to know when they could go back again,” Quick said. “I think the counselors make it so much fun for the kids, and every year it’s become bigger and better. My biggest comfort was for the kids to have that camp experience that I otherwise would not have been able to afford for them to have.”

Due to the financial burden experienced by families coping with cancer, Camp Kesem is provided free of charge to the families it serves. The camp is funded by the efforts of the chapter’s students and counselors through fundraisers, grants and donations.

One of the biggest fundraising events of the year for the camp’s University of Richmond chapter is “Make the Magic,” an event on April 5 with entertainment, dinner, a live auction and guest speakers who have been impacted by Camp Kesem. The goal is that Make the Magic will shed light on the impact of the organization, bring in new supporters of the cause and allow for more children to have the chance to attend Camp Kesem.

“For some campers, their parents’ battles with cancer last many years, and going to camp throughout has given them support for the long journey,” said Parker. “By showing the campers that they are all there for a common cause and that they are not alone in their struggles, it gives campers more strength to face the challenges in their life.

“The majority of our campers return, although we are always looking to expand and bring in new members. Children absolutely form bonds with each other.”

Building relationships
An important aspect of the camp is the relationship between the camp counselors and the campers. Counselors undergo 40 hours of extensive training, which is designed primarily to teach them how to be successful camp counselors, rather than counselors for children who have dealt with cancer.

“The counselors get the children to open up by being open themselves – they treat every child with kindness and love, and eventually the children return,” Parker said. “We hold a ceremony every year at camp where we recognize the reason we are all at camp in a way that builds community among the campers and reassures that we are a support network year-round, even if we are not together in person.”

The camp, held at Westview on the James, will take place this year from Saturday, Aug. 16 through Thursday, Aug. 21. Campers can expect to participate in activities such as drama and dance, sports, arts and crafts, team building, scavenger hunts and cabin chats. Organizers expect the number of attendees to grow from last year’s total of 50.

If you or your child is interested in Camp Kesem, visit

A week of fun for kids affected by cancer

Spots are still available at Camp Kesem University of Richmond, an overnight camp for kids who have or had a parent with cancer.



Real talk: cancer sucks. It sucks a lot–for everyone involved.

With 1.7 million cases of cancer in the United States every year, that leaves approximately three million kids affected by a parent’s cancer. In addition to experiencing complex emotions as they watch their parents undergo treatment, these kids can also find it challenging to find friends who really understand where they’re coming from.

That’s where Camp Kesem comes in.

Camp Kesem is a college student-run, free1 overnight camp for kids ages 6 to 16 who have or had a parent with cancer. During their weeklong stay, campers get to try out sports, drama, music, arts & crafts, team building, scavenger hunts, talent shows–all the typical summer camp traditions. In addition, each night before bed, the kids take part in a Cabin Chat, a time when they can open up and talk to their counselors and roommates.

The Camp Kesem model was founded in 2000 at Stanford University. Since then it has become a national organization with over 50 camps across the country. The University of Richmond Camp Kesem program is organized and run by student volunteers under the guidance of an advisory board of local professionals and Camp Kesem National. These students serve as counselors the week of camp, but they also work year-long to plan, fundraise, and undergo training so they know how to best care for their campers.

Camp Kesem University of Richmond will be held at Westview on the James from Saturday, August 16th to Thursday, August 21st. There are currently about 40 spots left.

For more information on Camp Kesem University of Richmond–and for details on how to register a camper and/or make a donation–visit

Photo by: vastateparksstaff

  1. Free! F-R-E-E, free! 

Richmond hosts recruitment campaign Kesemania

Published: January 27, 2014, 1:27 am ET
Collegian Reporter

Last week the Camp Kesem University of Richmond chapter hosted Kesemania—a recruitment campaign, which can be used to begin the application process for Camp Kesem counselors.

Camp Kesem is a national, student-run nonprofit organization that provides a free, week-long summer camp for children whose parents have been affected by cancer. The University of Richmond chapter was founded in 2009 to provide a safe, supportive and fun summer camp experience for local children.

“We are the only national organization that works with this demographic,” said sophomore Marissa Parker, co-director of the Camp Kesem Richmond chapter. “Our camp is completely free to the campers’ families because they have so many medical bills to worry about already.”

In 2013 alone, Camp Kesem Richmond involved more than 50 campers and 25 student volunteers. During the school year, students plan the camp schedule, train to be camp counselors, work with eligible families in the community and raise funds to ensure it is free for all involved.

“Camp Kesem provides opportunities for students to serve as leaders on campus and in the community and form strong friendships with other counselors,” Parker said.

During Kesemania, the Richmond chapter hosted two events: “Pie a Counselor,” where students threw pies at counselors’ faces, and a show from improv group STC, where students bought raffle tickets. The winning prize was $50 to a charity of the student’s choice, and the money raised went directly toward the campers.

There was also a profit share at Goin’ Bananas, information sessions for people interested in being counselors and a meeting where students spent time with past counselors.

“The profit share was really successful,” said sophomore Erica Fitchett, operations coordinator of the Camp Kesem Richmond chapter. “There were a lot of people. I know some of the sororities brought their new members so that was a ton of business right there.”

The budget this year to host 75 to 80 campers is around $46,000, Parker said. The money goes toward paying for the campsite, food, activities, medical supplies, travel for nurse and health professionals and recruitment materials for campers and counselors.

“We lower our costs by having a lot of supplies donated and working with our fantastic campsite that helps provide so many fun activities at low costs,” Parker said.

The bond that counselors form with their campers is a special one, Parker said, because they see children who are forced to grow up at a young age get the chance to be a kid again for a week.

“In six short days, we’re able to form a support that is life-changing for many of our campers and impactful for so many counselors,” she said. “Personally, I admire the strength that my campers have.

“As a counselor at camp, you’re able to just be silly and have so much fun with the children but also support them when they open up about their experiences with cancer. It’s a very special bond that is unique to Camp Kesem.”

Counselors often ask themselves and each other the question, “Why do you Kesem?” Fitchett said. Although her own answer to this has changed in the past, Fitchett knew it would never change again after she went to camp for the first time this past summer.

“I Kesem for the children who I met at camp, because they have taught me how to be strong and optimistic even when facing the realities of something as awful as cancer,” she said. “In other words, I Kesem for the smiles on their faces.”

Camp Kesem sponsors summer camp

Published: September 16, 2010, 1:38 am ET
Collegian Staff

For many people, coping with the fact that a loved one has just been diagnosed with cancer or has passed away from cancer can be draining.

But a group of Richmond students works to bring hope, smiles and magic back to dozens of children by fundraising to send the children of parents who have or have had cancer to a week-long sleepaway camp, for free.

Camp Kesem is a national organization with 24 chapters across the United States that was founded at Stanford University in 2000. The original group consisted of members of Hillel at Stanford, a Jewish college campus organization with chapters around the world.

They chose the word Kesem because it means “magic” in Hebrew.

Though there is no religious affiliation with Camp Kesem, Richmond chapter co-chairwoman Kristen Qutub said that the goal of the organization was to make the magic for the campers who had endured these hardships.
“In doing that, we have the magic that they give us back,” she said.

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From “The Collegian” (University of Richmond)