In 2014, 24 campers participated in Santa Clara University Camp Kesem’s inaugural summer camp. In 2015, 42 campers came. This year, the group is aiming to serve 55 children. What makes Camp Kesem’s summer camp unique is that it’s free and open to youth whose parents have, or have had, cancer. Kesem means “magic” in Hebrew.
“We want to provide a free week of summer camp for kids ages 6 to16 whose parents have or have had cancer and let the kids be kids for a week,” says Santa Clara University student and organization director Jennifer Mick, whose camp name is Bonsai. “Kids over the age of 16 can become counselors in training and they can help our counselors.”
The camp offers participants a chance to meet and make friends with others who share the experience of having a parent who is experiencing or has experienced cancer.
“There’s a tradition near the end of camp that we call ‘empowerment;’ it’s a chance for our campers to share with our Kesem community their parents’ cancer stories or other experiences they’re going through,” Mick says. “It’s a way for us to be there for each other in an understanding environment. We also end that program with an activity where we tie a string around all our wrists and pass around a ball of yarn so we create a web among our campers to show we are connected as a community.”
This year’s camp will be held on August 1 to August 6 at Salvation Army Camp del Oro in Nevada City, California.
“Our campsite has a lake we’d be canoeing in and there’s an amazing slide that goes into the lake we’d be having fun on,” Mick says. “Our camp is called the Game of Kesem and we’d incorporate activities from board games to video games to general camp activities. One of the games we want to do this year is the live version of Hungry Hungry Hippos where our campers can be the hippos.”
According to Mick, all of Camp Kesem’s counselors and coordinators are college students.
“Because Camp Kesem is run by college students, what we do is based off of everyone’s volunteer time,” Mick says. “It’s a double whammy of a program because Camp Kesem supports families in our community and it helps college students become empowered and develop skills to be better leaders. There will be 25 counselors at this year’s camp.”
Because Camp Kesem is free for its campers, the university organization has a fundraising goal of $50,000 this year. The group is hoping to raise at least $20,000 at Make the Magic 2016, an evening gala on Thursday, March 31 at the Corinthian Grand Ballroom in San Jose. At the gala, guests can participate in a silent auction, a raffle, or directly fund camp needs, such as arts and crafts supplies.
Visit http://campkesem.org/santaclara for more information about registering a child for camp, donating to Camp Kesem and purchasing tickets for the Make the Magic gala.