University News

Camp Kesem chapter embarks on $30,000 fundraising effort for new camp

Nonprofit camp for kids whose parents have cancer may be offered in R.I. this summer

Contributing Writer
Thursday, October 29, 2015

Brown’s Camp Kesem chapter is working to raise $30,000 to launch a one-week overnight camp this summer that offers guilt-free fun and emotional support to children with parents affected by cancer. The Brown chapter, which was founded last spring, is one of 62 college chapters of Camp Kesem.

The University chapter of Camp Kesem, a nonprofit organization that offers a week-long camp experience to children whose parents are battling cancer or have passed away from cancer, is currently raising money to launch its own summer camp in Rhode Island for children ages six to 16.

The chapter, founded last spring, announced last week that it hopes to raise $30,000 to cover the costs of the free overnight program. 

The chapter is fundraising through an online platform called Classy. The $30,000 from the fundraiser will go toward the campsite, food, advertising and transportation, among other things.

The founders of the camp named the program Kesem, the Hebrew word for “magic,” to symbolize their efforts to bring magic into the lives of the children and families dealing with the impacts of cancer, according to the program’s website. Camp Kesem currently has 62 college chapters.

Catherine Gannage ’17 and Joyce Kim ’17 founded the Brown chapter during their sophomore years. The chapter has continued to grow since, with over 10 student coordinators and 20 general body members. The club is currently focused on recruiting camp counselors, who will work directly with campers and provide support and counseling during the week of camp, Gannage said.

The next information session for undergraduate students interested in becoming counselors is scheduled for Nov. 11, said Olabade Omole ’17, a chapter coordinator. 

Gannage said she brought Camp Kesem to Brown because it played a significant part in her own life, helping her through difficulties that arose after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when Gannage was eight years old.

“I started going to Camp Kesem at Stanford when I was eight, and it changed my life in the best way possible,” she said. Gannage recalled one particularly meaningful night at camp when all of the children were able to speak about their personal stories.

“Without it, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. It was a big part of my childhood, and I needed to bring that to as many kids as I could,” she said.

With sports, drama, crafts, swimming and relays, Camp Kesem offers a typical camp experience, but it also provides a support network for kids who feel alone in dealing with a parent’s cancer, Gannage said.

“It’s difficult for a lot of these kids,” Kim said. Though not an alum of Camp Kesem herself, Kim had a close friend whose uncle suffered from cancer and has seen firsthand the toll it can take on a young family member. “It’s not super common at school to find someone whose parent has cancer, and they don’t have a support system beside from family.”

“Camp is a great opportunity to forget about it and be around kids who understand what they are going through. It reminds them that it’s okay to laugh and be happy even though this is happening,” she added.

In addition to raising money for the camp, chapter coordinators are reaching out to local schools and communities about Camp Kesem.

“My co-coordinator spoke with people in the school like social workers to start targeting support groups and schools,” Omole said. “We are mainly targeting kids in Rhode Island.”

The chapter hopes to launch its first camp session in August 2016.