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Camp Kesem, the freedom to enjoy the magic of childhood

When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, the world stops. After the initial shock or disbelief, people tend to jump into crisis mode. The fight to overcome this terrible disease is forefront. Beyond the fight, the whole family is affected. Often overlooked, the children silently suffer and lose the freedom of just being a child. Camp Kesem is an organization that brings little kids, whose parents have been affected by cancer, the joy of being a kid.

Camp Kesem fundraiser at Field Museum
Cristine Struble
Camp Kesem, share the magic
Cristine Struble

Camp Kesem is by big kids, for little kids whose parents have cancer. The ever-expanding Camp Kesem provides children affected by a parent’s cancer with a life-long, peer-support network that recognizes and understands their unique needs. Since its establishment in 2000, Camp Kesem has provided over 5,000 children, ages 6-16, with critical support through free summer camps led by passionate college students empowered with life and leadership skills. Camp Kesem currently exists at 54 chapters in 27 states and operates off donations and community support.

The idea behind Camp Kesem is simple. Give a child time to just be a kid. For a week, these children, who have a tremendous weight on their shoulders, can put the worries aside and enjoy an experience like anyone else. From picking a special camp name to creating camp memories, this week is free from explanations and worries. Since the children are surrounded by others in a similar situation, they can let down their guard and just experience the moment. Hopefully, the children can draw on these happy camp memories during more difficult times.

Recently, Camp Kesem held a fundraiser, Night at the Museum in Chicago. This fundraiser brought together volunteers, camp attendees and community leaders who want to continue the camp's mission. Many former campers and families shared their commitment to the organization's mission, bringing a little magic to alleviate a child's quiet suffering. The event raised $500,000 to help send children to Camp Kesem.

For more information on Camp Kesem, its mission, camps and how to donate, please visit the organization's website at

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