Camp Kesem is a free, week-long overnight summer camp experience designed for children ages 6 to 18 who are impacted by a parent’s cancer.
The first Kesem chapter was founded at Stanford University in 2000 as a project of Hillel at Stanford. Since then, we have grown to more than 130 chapters across the country.
At camp, we focus on creating fun experiences that help these children escape - even if for a short time - the challenges of coping with a parent’s cancer diagnosis.
Campers find adventure and creativity, build trust in themselves, and create new friendships. Many children say that Camp Kesem is the best week of the year, and we agree!
Providing a safe, fun, and empowering experience for your child is our top priority. That’s why we recruit college student leaders that care deeply about our mission to our Kesem chapters and invest significantly in leadership training and support to prepare them to be counselors at our camps across the country.
We also bring on nurses, mental health professionals, and other experienced staff to support our counselors and campers at camp.
Every day at Camp Kesem is an opportunity for campers to try something new, make great friends, and have fun!
While every Camp Kesem is different, here are some highlights from a typical day.
Your camper wakes up early to have one of their three nutritional meals of the day. Later, your child will go with their peers in the same age group to different camp rotations. This may include traditional camp activities such as arts and crafts, sports, and swimming. Morning activities end with “Cabin Time,” a chance for your child to relax with their bunkmates, nap, do crafts, or write letters home.
During lunch, your child likely joins in for a fun activity like “Web of Kindness” – where any camper can share a story about someone else being kind that day. Your child will again go with their group to do an activity. They’ll also choose a free rotation to have extra time in a favorite program or try something new. They’ll end with another “Cabin Time” to rest and recharge.
Your child catches up with friends and sings camp songs at dinner before joining an activity like a talent show or s’mores. Before bedtime, campers gather in their cabin for “Cabin Chat.” Cabin Chats give everyone the chance to speak in a comfortable atmosphere about anything on their mind - from thoughts on their day to experiences at home. Your child goes to sleep to get ready for another fun-filled day!
There’s one time during the week that we set specific time aside for the entire camp to get together to acknowledge why we are here. This is a time for your child to share their stories about fears, accomplishments, hopes, and dreams. Anyone can talk if they choose to, but not everybody has to. It is a truly magical experience for everyone involved.
*Note that we've omitted 2020 and 2021 as Kesem at Home was operated in place of Camp Kesem due to the Covid-19 pandemic.