Monday, December 1, 2014

Camp Kesem - a FREE Summer Camp for Kids Whose Parents Have Cancer!

Since tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, I have to tell you all about an organization that holds a special place in my heart: Camp Kesem! "Kesem" is Hebrew for "Magic", so Camp Kesem is all about giving kids a magical week of summer camp! More specifically, Camp Kesem is for children whose parents have cancer or have had cancer, and it is FREE. The families who send their kids are not asked to pay any money. It's a week of FUN for the kids - not a therapy camp, just a place for them to be kids and escape the cancer that has turned their family's lives upside down. This organization is amazing.
The camp is organized and ran by college students all over the county. Camp Kesem started at Stanford University in 2000, by student Iris Rave. Since then it has expanded to over 50 college campuses in the United States!
When I was freshmen in college at Brigham Young University, a guy in my student ward (church congregation) told me about a summer camp he was trying to get started at BYU. That organization was Camp Kesem. It sounded absolutely amazing to me, so I was immediately on board! I signed on to be a counselor that summer. We actually struggled to find campers to come (now there's a waiting list!) but we had 13 INCREDIBLE kids come to our first year of camp at Camp Kesem BYU! Pebbles and Bam Bam (Michelle and Austin Hadley) headed up that year of camp, and it was a huge success!
The next year I got to help plan camp and this time we were lucky enough to have over 30 kids at camp! Jared and I got married and moved to Eugene, Oregon for a job only a few weeks before camp, so we traveled back to Utah so I could be at camp in late August. It was another magical week of Camp Kesem. (Here's a video that some of our amazing counselors and coordinators put together that year). Since we moved to Oregon this was my last year attending camp, and how I've missed it!

Here's me and Smiley, second year at camp at the ropes course. :) (Did I mention every camper and staff member at camp creates a special camp name for themselves?? So fun!)
This summer Jared and I got to go to dinner and a talent show on the last night of camp up at Camp Wapiti, and oh how good it felt to feel the magic of Camp Kesem again! I even got to catch up with a few of the kids who were at our very first year of camp so many years ago! One of the original campers was actually a counselor this past summer! Talk about coming full circle!! It was awesome. Here's me and Merida. Her original camp name was Nemo - she's rocked both names!
I also got to catch up with this sweet girl, Skippy! I don't think my smile could have been ANY bigger in this picture!
It was so amazing to see these kids (and a few others from those first two years!) and the GOOD that Camp Kesem has done in their lives!
Everyone I know is affected by cancer in some way. I don't know anyone, honestly, who isn't. My Grandpa, my mom's dad, passed away in 2009 from prostate cancer and I remember talking on the phone with my mom shortly after and hearing her say, "I wish there was a camp that I could go to!". Cancer is awful no matter how old you are or who you've lost, whether you have it yourself or someone you love has it, and luckily there are many resources out there for all age groups. The resource that I know and love the most is, of course, Camp Kesem.
It can be so frightening, and confusing, for a child to see a parent undergoing cancer treatments. Though cancer isn't contagious, sometimes children don't understand that, especially since they're often not allowed near their parents whose immune systems cannot handle exposure to sickness, or even for the affect that radioactive waves could have on them. My heart goes out to the millions of precious children around the world who watch their parents go through cancer, who lose their parents to cancer, or who can't watch their parents go through it and be by their sides because they aren't allowed to see them. It breaks my heart.
While Camp Kesem is certainly not labeled as a therapy camp, these amazing kids get to escape cancer for one week in the summer every year, to be silly and crazy and carefree, to be around kids who know what they're going through, and I truly believe it does end up being extremely therapeutic. There are no classes on how to deal with your parent's cancer, there are no pamphlets handed out about what to do when your mom gets cancer. It's just fun, and oh the difference it makes!
If you have it in your heart to donate to this amazing organization, please don't hesitate! Raising the funds for camp is a tremendous job, and it's never easy. Somehow every year the staff of CK-BYU (and all of the other CK's on college campuses around the country) pull it off, and it's because of people who are touched by the cause enough to donate a little something. It all adds up to making a completely magical week for some pretty special kids. Click HERE to go to Camp Kesem BYU's page to donate! Or, if you'd prefer to see if your alma mater has a Camp Kesem on their campus and you'd like to donate to them, go here to find a list of every college that holds Camp Kesem each year, click on them, and go ahead and donate! :) Cancer totally and completely stinks, but we can make a difference in the lives of those with cancer by giving their children a week of FUN!

Join the spirit of #GivingTuesday and GIVE BACK!

If you're a big pinterest fan, go ahead and pin this image to spread the word about this amazing cause! :)


  1. This was beautiful! I loved it. I miss CK, and you, too!

  2. Michelle, you are the best! I miss you too! Your little family is so adorable. I hope we make it that way soon so we can visit you guys! :)