the transformative support

of an empowering community

We believe all children facing a parent's cancer deserve the chance to fully experience the joys of childhood and be their best selves.

We provide free summer camps, day programs, and virtual meet-ups for youth and adolescents facing a parent’s cancer to connect with peers, process their experiences, and have fun.

Applications are now open. Learn more below.

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Creating fun. Building community. Empowering the next generation.

Passionate college students lead our community. Working alongside alumni and supporters, they create experiences and connections where these children can process, connect, heal, and thrive. 

For many of the children and our volunteers, Kesem is a life-changing experience that spans far beyond a week at summer camp. It fosters bonds and understanding that builds resilience, confidence, and lasting feelings of hope and joy. That's the magic of Kesem.

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The Challenge

Today, more than 5 million children are impacted by a parent’s cancer in the United States. ¹These children can experience increased anxiety, emotional isolation, loss of social interest, and feelings of hopelessness, among other things.

While many programs, services, and communities support those coping with their own cancer diagnosis, these children often lack the resources, spaces, or peer-to-peer support tailored to help address their needs and experiences.
¹Source: Center for Disease Control and American Cancer Society data analyzed by Decision Resources Group.

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Who We Are

We work to ensure that every child affected by a parent’s cancer is never alone.

In our community, thousands of children facing the challenges of a parent’s cancer can escape the sadness and isolation that cancer creates and connect with peers who understand and are able to provide comfort and support.

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Our Work

We create experiences and a lasting community to support children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. Across the country, we are reaching more children and families impacted by cancer every year.

Our unique student leader model sustains successful delivery of our flagship program, Camp Kesem, and other fun, creative, and inclusive year-round programs and services.

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Our Impact

We welcome children coping 
with a parent's cancer into a supportive community where 
they find caring volunteers, exemplary role models in our college student leaders, and friends that they can relate to. 
This new environment leads 
to more positive outcomes for them, including:
Improved self-esteem
Enhanced coping skills
Increased self-confidence
Stronger emotional intelligence

Camp Kesem has given me a family of people who are always there for me and understand what my situation is like. Camp Kesem has truly been one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life."
—kesem camper
Online Support: Virtual Communities For Kids Dealing With A Parent's Cancer

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Online Support: Virtual Communities For Kids Dealing With A Parent's Cancer

Discovering that a parent has cancer can turn a child's world upside down. It's an emotional rollercoaster of fear, sadness, and confusion. During these challenging times, it's crucial for children to have a safe space where they can open up about their feelings, share their journey, and find solace in the stories of others who are navigating the same stormy seas.

That's where online support communities shine. They are a beacon of hope and understanding in the tumultuous journey of coping with a parent's cancer. These virtual havens offer a shoulder to lean on, a place where children can express themselves freely, learn from others, and discover that they are not alone in this struggle. Continue reading to learn more about these online spaces for young people grappling with a parent’s cancer.

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Fostering Hope And Positivity In Kids During A Parent's Cancer Treatment

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Fostering Hope And Positivity In Kids During A Parent's Cancer Treatment

A cancer diagnosis not only affects the patient but also sends ripples through their family, significantly impacting children. Watching a parent undergo cancer treatments is a profound and heartwrenching experience for a child. Watching their parent suffer from physical and emotional turbulence — hair loss, fatigue, and pain — can turn a child’s world upside down. Witnessing the once-indestructible pillar of their world become vulnerable is a harsh lesson in fragility and the preciousness of time.

Children may experience a range of emotions when dealing with a parent’s cancer treatment, including fear, sadness, and confusion. Acknowledging their feelings and providing them with the support they need to cope is essential. Continue reading for tips about practical ways to support kids dealing with a parent’s cancer treatment and help them maintain a positive outlook throughout a parent’s cancer journey.

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Supporting Children Through Parental Cancer: A Guide for Educators And School Staff

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Supporting Children Through Parental Cancer: A Guide for Educators And School Staff

Dealing with cancer in the family is an incredibly challenging experience, particularly for children who may not fully understand what's happening. As teachers, coaches, school counselors, administrators, and other staff interacting with students daily, you’re uniquely positioned to offer support and stability during turbulent times.

In the face of such adversity, the role of educators and school staff is not just to educate but to nurture resilience, hope, and strength among their students. By adopting these strategies, they can help children cope with the uncertainty of a parent's cancer diagnosis and support them in finding their way through this challenging journey. Continue reading for practical advice and strategies to support children coping with parental cancer. 

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Helping Children Cope With A Parent's Chemotherapy

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Helping Children Cope With A Parent's Chemotherapy

Discovering that a parent has been diagnosed with cancer can be an overwhelming and frightening experience for children. It's a road fraught with emotional hurdles. Yet, finding ways to communicate and support your children during these trying times is crucial, helping them navigate the storm of emotions and uncertainty that comes with this life-altering news.

If your treatment includes chemotherapy, you might find yourself grappling with the delicate task of preparing your child for the possible side effects of chemo, like fatigue, hair loss, nausea, and a higher risk of infections due to a weakened immune system.

Emotionally, the treatment can be a profound source of stress, anxiety, and depression for patients. The uncertainty about treatment outcomes, the alteration in physical appearance, and the disruption of daily life can lead to feelings of helplessness and distress.

Watching a parent undergoing chemotherapy can bring about a premature confrontation of the vulnerability of their parent, which may instill fear, anxiety, and even an unusual burden of responsibilities at a tender age. Simultaneously, it can foster an environment of increased empathy, resilience, and depth of understanding as children may become more acutely aware of life’s fragility and the importance of health. Continue reading for tips and advice to help children cope when a parent is receiving chemotherapy.

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Understanding Childhood Reactions: How A Parent's Cancer Impacts Children Emotionally

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Understanding Childhood Reactions: How A Parent's Cancer Impacts Children Emotionally

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a profoundly challenging and transformative experience for any parent. However, the ripple effects of such a diagnosis extend far beyond the individual, permeating the entire family structure. It can be particularly impactful on children, who may experience acute emotional turmoil when a parent is diagnosed with cancer.

It's essential to recognize and address the unique emotional needs of children in this situation. A deeper understanding paves the way for providing tailored support and guidance to aid their coping process significantly. Continue reading to delve into the multifaceted significance of a parent's cancer diagnosis on children and valuable insights and effective strategies for navigating this complex emotional landscape.

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Special Days: Celebrating Birthdays and Holidays After Losing A Parent to Cancer

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Special Days: Celebrating Birthdays and Holidays After Losing A Parent to Cancer

Losing a parent to cancer is a life-altering event that leaves an indelible mark on a person’s life. The void can feel even more pronounced when significant occasions like holidays and birthdays approach. Those events are often filled with traditions, rituals, and fond memories from the past, which can trigger intense grief when one of your parents is no longer there to participate.

These moments can also offer a chance to honor a parent’s memory and find solace in treasured memories. With time, love, and the right approach, it’s possible to find joy and remember them fondly.

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Special Days: Celebrating Birthdays and Holidays During Cancer Treatment

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Special Days: Celebrating Birthdays and Holidays During Cancer Treatment

A cancer diagnosis can transform our view of the world. It can force us to reevaluate life and focus on what truly matters. When a loved one has cancer, celebrating may be the last thing on your mind. However, celebrating birthdays, holidays, and other milestones allows us to find joy in adversity. 

Celebrating special occasions when a parent has cancer has heightened significance for children. These moments can provide a sense of normalcy, continuity, and emotional connection during an otherwise turbulent time in their lives. Celebrating special days can reinforce the bond between the parent and child, making cherished memories that last a lifetime. In addition, they can offer a much-needed respite from the daily stresses of treatments, doctor visits, and the uncertainties of cancer.

In these moments, families can come together, focusing on the joy, love, and shared stories that bring them together and emphasizing the enduring strength of their bond.

Continue reading to learn the significance of celebrations in the face of cancer and tips for making celebrations memorable.

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Building A Support Network: The Power of Peer Support

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Building A Support Network: The Power of Peer Support

Childhood is typically characterized by carefree days and new experiences. Yet, it can be a time of confusion, anxiety, and isolation for children with a parent battling cancer. For children of cancer patients, the emotional toll can be immense. Their world is full of medical jargon, visits to oncology units, and the possibility of losing a parent.

That’s where the power of peer support comes in, providing children with an essential lifeline during trying times. Building a support network ensures they don’t face these challenges alone. Connecting children of cancer patients to peer support can provide solace, understanding, and an avenue for healing. Continue reading to learn more about the importance of a support network and practical steps to make it a reality.

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Balancing a Parent’s Cancer Treatment With Children’s Routines: Maintaining Normalcy in Extraordinary Circumstances

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Balancing a Parent’s Cancer Treatment With Children’s Routines: Maintaining Normalcy in Extraordinary Circumstances

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Supporting Children After the Loss of a Parent to Cancer

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Supporting Children After the Loss of a Parent to Cancer

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How to Talk to Your Children About Your Cancer Recurrence

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How to Talk to Your Children About Your Cancer Recurrence

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Telling Your Children You Have Cancer

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Telling Your Children You Have Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is shocking and upsetting, leaving you anxious, confused, and dazed. Then it hits you: how will you tell your children you have cancer? 

Breaking the news to your children that you have cancer can be one of the most challenging conversations to have with your children. Worrying about how they’ll react and cope with the news is natural. They may feel scared, confused, and worried about your health and their future. 

There’s no right or wrong way to let your children know about your cancer diagnosis (although keeping it a secret is not recommended). Everyone reacts differently to the news of a cancer diagnosis. But you know your children better than anyone, including the best way to share the news. Here are some tips to help you talk to your children about your diagnosis. 

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 Summer Camp Programming Models: Their Role and Impact on Youth Development

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Summer Camp Programming Models: Their Role and Impact on Youth Development

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Short & Long-Term Importance of Psychosocial Peer Support for Kids Facing a Parent's Cancer Diagnosis

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Short & Long-Term Importance of Psychosocial Peer Support for Kids Facing a Parent's Cancer Diagnosis

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly two million people were diagnosed with cancer in the US in 2021 — with thousands of them estimated to be parents of minor children. Children whose parents have cancer react to the diagnosis in various ways.

Multiple studies show that children dealing with a parent’s cancer diagnosis have a higher risk of emotional and behavioral problems, like depression and anxiety. Several factors — the disruption of daily routines, changing household roles, financial stress, and a parent’s physical and emotional availability — are contributing aspects.

Although each child might react differently, common issues might also include difficulties in school and other social settings and regressive behavior. For some children, reactions can indicate symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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The Impact Young Adult Mentors Make in a Peer-Led Organization

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The Impact Young Adult Mentors Make in a Peer-Led Organization

There’s extensive information available about how mentors make a significant difference in the lives of their mentees. However, the mentoring relationship is a two-way street, and serving as a mentor in a peer-led organization can profoundly impact the lives of both the mentor and the mentee.

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The Role & Impact of Young Adult Mentors for Kids Facing Childhood Trauma

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The Role & Impact of Young Adult Mentors for Kids Facing Childhood Trauma

First and foremost, mentors can ensure that children dealing with a parent with cancer don’t feel alone. Regardless of their situation — dealing with a recently diagnosed parent, one undergoing treatment, a parent who’s a cancer survivor, or the pain of coping with the loss of a parent due to cancer — a mentor will provide support.

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When a Parent Has Cancer: the Emotional and Psychosocial Impact

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When a Parent Has Cancer: the Emotional and Psychosocial Impact

A cancer diagnosis turns everyone’s world into a tailspin. Fortunately, there are ways to help children cope with cancer's emotional, psychological, and social impact.

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Meet Some of Our Team Kesem Runners

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Meet Some of Our Team Kesem Runners

As we build our team ahead of the runDisney races, we can’t help but admire the incredible stories of our Team Kesem participants. 

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Thank You for a Magical Summer

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Thank You for a Magical Summer

One thing is for sure—there is nothing quite like the positive impact that a summer of Camp Kesem leaves on every member of our community.

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Coming Home to Kesem

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Coming Home to Kesem

As we kick off this year’s cycle of national event galas, we want to highlight the special moments we saw during the Magic Ball Boston and Magic Ball Chicago.

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I Spy A Butterfly

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I Spy A Butterfly

As we prepare for our first summer back to in-person camp in 2 years, we’re doing a deep dive into the why behind some of the new things you will see!

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Welcome to Kesem Stories!

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Welcome to Kesem Stories!

We're excited to launch a permanent collection of Kesem stories for our community to share.

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