In the News
Student-run camp assists children of cancer patients
Spots are still available at Camp Kesem University of Richmond, an overnight camp for kids who have or had a parent with cancer.
FEBRUARY 20, 2014; 6:55 AM • BY VALERIE CATROW
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.
Photo by: vastateparksstaff
Richmond hosts recruitment campaign Kesemania
Published: January 27, 2014, 1:27 am ET
BY SABRINA ISLAM
RJ MORRISON /THE COLLEGIAN
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
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.
From “The Collegian” (University of Richmond)