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What is Camp Kesem?

Camp Kesem is a college student run summer camp for kids with a parent who has (or has had) cancer. Our one-week sleep away camps are a chance for kids ages 6-16 to have a fun-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.

How much does camp cost?

Camp Kesem is FREE to all campers. Along with the emotional and physical burdens that cancer can place on families, there is also a major financial strain. Thanks to the generous donations from community members, business, and other organizations camp is free to all campers.

When and where does camp take place?

The dates and location for the 2015 camp are June 21-27 and July 18-24 at the YMCA Camp Oaks campsite in Big Bear, CA. Transportation to and from the campsite will be provided. Address: 47400 Monte Viste Dr, Big Bear, CA, 92314/ Telephone: (909) 585-2020

How does a typical day of camp operate?

Each day has a different theme such as Counselor Dress-Up day, Super Hero day, or Sports Day (Daily themes vary year to year and will be sent out to all of our camper families a few weeks prior to camp). Each morning at camp starts with cabin rotations between activities such as sports, arts and crafts,a wide variety of other group activities and lots and lots of songs! Every evening ends with a cabin chat.

What is cabin chat?

Cabin chat is an opportunity for campers to bond and express their feelings. It is a safe and open conversation where kids can feel comfortable talking about highs and lows of the day, dreams, fears, or, if they choose to, the effects of cancer. Cabin Chat is done with gender specific cabin-mates and usually occurs during the concluding 30 min of the day, right before lights-out.

How is Camp Kesem different from other summer camps?

Camp Kesem is able to focus on the specific needs of children of families coping with cancer. We have a 3:1 camper to counselor ratio. Our staff is specifically trained to understand the needs of our campers. At Camp Kesem UCSD we create a safe, supportive and FUN environment, in which campers support each other and leave camp with increased self-esteem and the understanding that they are not alone.

How is the staff trained?

With the help of community members, our staff undergoes an intensive training process throughout the year prior to camp that focuses on facilitating positive group interactions, teaching how to deal with children in sensitive situations and creating a memorable experience for every camper. Our staff is also trained in first aid and CPR.

Are there adults at Camp Kesem?

The Camp Director, Camp Nurse, and Camp Therapist are college-graduates over 21 years of age. Additionally, all of the camp counselors are at least 18 years old and undergo a thorough application and screening process to become counselors.

How many campers will be at Camp Kesem this year?

We will be taking 170 children to camp this summer between our two weeks of camp along with 65 UCSD student volunteers!

My child has special needs; can he/she still go to camp?

Of course! We anticipate that many of our campers will have special emotional, social, and dietary needs. In fact, Camp Kesem’s excellent camper-counselor ratio means your special needs child will be given superior care. The on-site assistance of our Registered Nurse and child therapist are also there to make sure no child’s needs are overlooked.

Who runs Camp Kesem?

One of the missions of Camp Kesem is to allow college-aged volunteers to make a difference in the lives of others. Under the direction of national advisors and a community advisory board, students work year round to raise funds, organize camp activities, recruit campers and train volunteer counselors.

What does “Kesem” mean?

Kesem is the Hebrew word for “magic”. Magic is exactly what we hope to be able to provide our campers and their families.

What if my child gets homesick?

Homesickness is dealt with regularly at Camp Kesem. As children become involved in the activities and make new friends, homesickness usually fades. We also ask parents to write a letter to their child(ren) in advance which is given to the camper midway through camp.

How can I get involved?

Camp Kesem has an advisory board that meets every-other month to discuss fundraising, camp programming and community outreach. If you are interested in becoming a member of the advisory board or be involved in another way, please contact us at ucsd.advisoryboard@campkesem.org.

How can I enroll my child?

(See: Campers and Parents)
Camp Kesem is operated on a first come, first serve basis. Unfortunately, all of our 2015 camper spots have been filled. Although our dropout rates are low, feel free to register to be on our waitlist. Please send an email to ucsd.outreach@campkesem.org to be added to the newsletter mailing list.