University Students Provide Camp For Kids of Parents Fighting Cancer
By Dave Woods • dwoods@OfficialKidsMag.com
Camp Kesem is close to Daniele Gibbons’ heart.
“I am a child of a parent who battled cancer,” the University of Arkansas junior said.
“When I saw this organization it interested me because it helps kids who are going through the same adversities as I did as a kid.”
Daniele’s mother suffered from cancer when Daniele was growing up. When she had the opportunity to work with kids who had parents going through the same thing she did, she didn’t hesitate to get involved.
Camp Kesem is a nationwide program that supports the children of cancer victims by sending them to an all-expense paid camp for a week each summer. The camp allows kids between ages 6 and 17 to make new friends and socialize with kids who share similar experiences.
“Your having to take on adult roles as a kid,” she explained. “Sometimes you have to grow up a lot sooner than you had planned to. It was kind of like being worried all of the time.”
The organization has chapters at dozens of colleges and universities across the country and the camps the kids attend are paid for by students who raise funds and awareness of the organization throughout the year.
“We reach out to local hospitals, schools and counselors,” she said. “We go to a lot of events and that’s how we get the word out.”
The camp, Daniele said, offers kids hope.
“These kids can really benefit from it because it gives them the chance to be around kids that are going through the same thing,” she said. “It can be really difficult. They really don’t know what to do sometimes. It gives them the chance to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel; that there are people who support them and that they will always have a Kesem family looking out for them.”
The UofA chapter of Camp Kesem works with Camp Bear Tracks in Drasco, AR.
“We do all of the typical summer camp activities like swimming and zip lining and sports, and arts and crafts,” Daniele said. “A major thing we do at Camp Kesem is have a thing called an Empowerment Ceremony. It’s one night at camp where the kids get the chance to tell their story to everyone. It’s a beautiful thing because everyone gets to hear the other campers’ stories. It is awesome seeing these children get to know each other and just lean on each other. That is something important that we do.”
Daniele said she wished she had a support system like Camp Kesem when she was facing her mom’s illness and battle.
“That’s a big thing about Camp Kesem,” she said. “A lot of the counselors are children who have had parents that have battled cancer. It’s kind of therapeutic for all of us. We get to help these children. It gives me the chance to be the person I needed when I was a kid. That’s just really rewarding.”