By Jill Fox
A cancer diagnosis of a parent affects the whole family – especially the children whose extracurricular activities have to take a backseat to more pressing medical expenses.
Camp Kesem wants to help these children ages 6 to 18 who have been impacted by their parent’s cancer – at absolutely no cost. Founded in 2000, Camp Kesem has expanded to over one hundred chapters across the country, serving almost 9,000 children in 2018.
The camp serves children who have lost a parent to cancer, have a parent undergoing treatment, or whose parent is a cancer survivor, which makes up a population of over 5 million affected children in the United States.
“It gives them a week of fun, love and support, along with a community of other kids that really understand what they’re going through,” said Casey Kenoyer, a sophomore at Florida State University.
In her second year as a camp outreach coordinator, Kenoyer said many of the counselors have had personal experience with someone with cancer so children are surrounded by a unique group of people who are constantly there for each other.
Each Camp Kesem chapter is run through a university, where college student leaders from a variety of majors organize every aspect of the camp from fundraising throughout the year to serving as counselors. At Florida State University, two major events provide funding for the camp. This year, their “Make the Magic” dinner raised $40,000, and Giving Tuesday, a day of giving back to nonprofits that falls on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, raised $36,000 towards their $100,000 goal.
Each Camp Kesem college chapter holds their camp in an off-site camp facility, such as YMCA, Girl Scout, or other professional camping venues. The camps are typically located within a few hours of the college chapter.
In addition to one completely free week of summer camp, the national nonprofit organization provides year-round support to these children affected by cancer.
Kenoyer said Kesem means magic in Hebrew.
“It’s a little week of magic to let these kids escape their dreary lives and just be kids again.”
Colleges around Florida, from Tallahassee to Miami provide different sessions during July and August, but each chapter is different. Enrollment remains open through summer to reach as many families as possible.
Parkland parents can apply by visiting campkesem.org/fsu.