The Magic of Camp Kesem

One of our goals at The Licorice Project is to spread unexpected joy. So we’re especially lucky that we discovered Camp Kesem, which offers camps for kids with a parent who has (or has had) cancer. These amazing one-week sleep away camps, which are run by college students, are completely free for kids ages 6 to 16 and offer a chance for campers to have fun, while getting the extra support and attention they need. A few of our TLP community members’ children attended Camp Kesem this past summer. We thought it would be fun and helpful for them to share their experiences.

Alice attended the Northwestern University chapter in 2012 & 2013

“I felt welcome at Camp Kesem because I knew everyone there had gone through the same thing I went through. You don’t really talk about cancer at all except during the one empowerment ceremony, where you answer the question ‘ What Camp Kesem means to you.’ The activities at Camp Kesem teach teamwork, and how to trust each other. My favorite thing about Camp Kesem is meeting new people. I can’t explain the friendships I’ve made at Camp Kesem, but they are so special to me. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was five. I didn’t understand and I wasn’t able to ask questions. Camp Kesem gave me a community where I could understand and ask questions. I also understand there are other kids who deal with more challenging hardships than I have dealt with. The biggest gift Camp Kesem gives you is to just be normal, and forget about cancer. As I like to call it – a week away from reality.”

Camp Kesem Cabing mates last day 2013Camp Kessem NU 2013 Alice and Friends

Donnanne’s son Dane attended the Augustana College chapter in 2013 

“When we dropped him off, we were greeted by a ton of camp counselors all energetic and ready to go. Half of the campers met at the college and then took a 3-hour bus ride to the camp, the other half met at the camp. The thought of all these kids having to deal with what my kids have had to deal with made me sad. But, the kids weren’t sad; they were excited and nervous to go to camp. When we picked him up from camp, he was exhausted, but happy! Everyone called him Danish (that was his camp name, no one knew each other’s real name). Dane told us ‘the people, campers and counselors were very kind and understanding. The pool was refreshing on the hot days. The food was very good. The empowerment ceremony was very sad, but helped us all.’ The empowerment ceremony was one evening when they allowed kids to have the platform to share anything they needed to. Dane told me that he went up there and spoke in front of over 80 people about how I was self-conscious because I had lost my hair – but he thought I was beautiful anyway. Yes, hearing that brought me to tears. The camp was great.  It made him realize he wasn’t alone.  No kid should have to watch a parent suffer in any way, but this helped him reach out to others and be a part of something that only a certain group of other kids could understand. Dane hopes to return next year and give back in the future as a counselor.”

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