Camp Kesem’s Life-Changing Impact on Needy Kids and College Students
When one parent is diagnosed with cancer, the entire family is affected. For kids, the joys of childhood are replaced with a new reality of cancer treatments and fears. Kids can suffer feelings of isolation, low self-esteem and depression often creating developmental, social and academic roadblocks.
One woman, combined her passion for summer camp with her desire to help needy children, and started Camp Kesem at Stanford University in 2000 as a social action project. Camp Kesem (CK), is a free, student led summer camp for kids 6-16 whose parents have been affected by cancer. CK provides a safe and supportive atmosphere, where kids befriend peers who can relate to their unique situation, and gain the strategies and confidence needed to cope with their parent’s illness or death. For camper Angela, who at 6, lost her mother to cancer, CK was life-changing: Angela believed it was her fault that her mother got sick and died, until she came to Camp Kesem. Over 85% of camper parent’s report that CK has had a significant impact on their child’s self-esteem, confidence, empathy, support and coping skills.
What makes Camp Kesem powerful and unique is a two-fold mission that also provides college students with the opportunity to develop real world leadership skills as they create, manage, and run every aspect of their college chapter. Over ten years, the vision of one grew into a national movement via the grassroots efforts of college students eager to create Camp Kesem in their community. Last year, CK’s 23 camps, in 14 states, benefited 1400 campers and over 800 college students. Camp Kesem’s impact on college students is life-changing too. On top of demanding academic schedules, work and social commitments, CK students dedicate 10-15/week to CK as they commit to a year-long position managing their camp. 80% of our students reported developing significant team-building, communication, decision-making, organizational, problem solving, and fundraising skills.
Campers like Elaina, embody CK’s dual mission: At 12, Elaina lost her father to cancer; she will volunteer for CK this fall as she enters college. To date, 3800 students have benefited from CK. Alumni report the skills gained with CK had a significant impact on their post graduate studies, decisions to pursue service careers, and their ability to secure competitive private sector jobs. This year, CK has grown by 50% to 37 chapters, putting CK in 22 states and providing the opportunity for twice as many kids and families to benefit from Camp Kesem.
Sadly, it is one woman’s life & death that has changed the future of CK this year and has made the mission of CK very personal for our ED, Jane. Her young sister, Susan, was diagnosed with colon cancer and died within 12 weeks. Susan was 35 and the mother of 3 very young children. Losing Susan so young was devastating to her children, family and friends. Susan’s courage facing death inspired them all. They have found comfort and strength with CK and created a memorial fund to help CK launch future chapters so that one day, any child with a parent with cancer will have CK available in their community; no child should have to suffer such a loss alone. Camp Kesem’s achievement is the life-changing impact it has on EVERYONE involved.
More About This Charity
Most Influential College Student or College Organization
Camp Kesem National
Camp Kesem National’s mission is two-fold: to provide children affected by a parent’s cancer with a supportive, lifelong camp community that recognizes and understands their unique needs; and to empower college students to make a difference and build invaluable leadership skills by developing and managing every aspect of their Camp Kesem chapter.
- This College Organization raised $840,000 in the past year
- This College Organization has helped over 10,000 people
- 150,000 volunteer hrs, for the benefit of 2,000 kids plus countless s’mores, new friends and hope