Williamsburg camp helps kids whose parents have cancer


by 13News Now


Posted on April 15, 2014 at 7:39 AM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 15 at 1:20 PM

Camp Kesem is a free, week-long overnight summer camp for children who have or had a parent with cancer. The Camp, held at the Jamestown 4H Center from August 18-22, 2014
has 27 open spots remaining for campers this year.

Camp Kesem is organized by the College of William and Mary’s student volunteers under the guidance of its Advisory Committee of local professionals and Camp Kesem National, its parent organization. William and Mary students serve as counselors and work year-long to fundraise and plan for the week, as well as undergo over forty hours of extensive training prior to camp.  

The Camp Kesem program model was founded in 2000 at Stanford University.  Since then it has grown into a national organization, with 54 camps nationwide in 27 states. Camp Kesem @ William and Mary will host its first week of camp in Summer 2014.

Campers participate in a host of fun activities including sports, drama, arts & crafts, team-building, scavenger hunts and talent shows.  In addition, each night before bed, the campers have “Cabin Chat,” a time for the campers to talk and open up to their peers and counselors.  

Children who have a parent who has or had cancer often lack sufficient external support because they are neither physically ill nor visibly distinct from others.  The complexity of emotions they experience can easily go without attention.  It is often challenging for these children to find peers with whom they can relate, resulting in feelings of isolation and fear.

“It gives both my child and myself a week to spread our wings separate from each other. He’s exactly where he wants to be, surrounded by kids in similar situations and the warmth and support of the counselors,” says a parent of camper, age 12.

Kesem advisor, Dr. Michael Amylon, pediatric oncologist at Stanford Hospital emphasizes the importance of an experience like Kesem.  “These kids have their world knocked right out from under them, and often they have no where to turn to get help and support.  Camp Kesem provides a magical place of respite and play, and a group of other kids in the same situation who understand what it's all about and can offer unique and important peer understanding and friendship.”

Camper applications and more information on Camp Kesem at William and Mary can be found at http://campkesem.org/wm.