Valley Focus: Camp Kesem Gives Children A Break From Family Cancer Diagnosis

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Camp Kesem is a place where kids can be kids.

Camp Kesem is a place where kids can be kids.

It is a little break from the frightening reality of a parent's cancer diagnosis. Camp Kesem is seeking children who may benefit from a trip to the mountains with mentors at their side. Fresno State students have a chapter of Camp Kesem. With a motto: A child's friend through and beyond a parent's cancer they are changing lives. Micah Olivas is the Outreach Coordinator for Fresno State's Camp Kesem chapter. He joined Margot Kim on Valley Focus to discuss the benefits. (show aired May 13, 2018) Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Margot: Tell us a little bit about Camp Kesem and its unique mission to serve children whose parents are dealing with cancer.

Micah: Yeah, so Camp Kesem at Fresno State is, of course, the local chapter of a national organization that started at Stanford in 2000 and has since exploded and has reached 100 campuses across the United States. So, we serve the children of parents who have been touched by cancer, and we offer them a free week of camp, replete with games, activities, and just fun so that they can kind of put on the back burner some of the stresses of being at home and to just really enjoy the fun of being a kid.

Margot: What is the advantage of having chapters like this on college campuses, and then getting college students involved with these younger children?

Micah: Yeah, absolutely. So, we have quite a few members of our coordinator team, as well as our counselor team, who have been personally affected by a parent's cancer.

So it really gives them an opportunity to reach kids who may have been in their position at one point and creates that contact between an underserved community of kids who may suffer from being affected by their parents being kind of preoccupied with dealing with cancer. So it's a really impactful organization that creates a really important contact between communities of college students and the children who've been impacted.

Margot: What are some of the issues that some of these children may be dealing with?

Micah: Yeah, so potentially, before they come to camp, some of these kids may have, you know, had to deal with the diagnosis on their own and due to the stresses, whether they be financial or social or otherwise, experienced by the families, the kids could suffer from a bit of neglect just in the school place or in the home. And it just kind of takes that pressure alleviates that pressure from the kids and then really allows them to reconnect with some of the just joyful, careless fun of childhood.

Margot: What are some of the ages that the camp serves?

Micah: Yeah, so in the last few years, just as chapters before us have served predominantly kids, it's been the age range of 6 to 18. So we have some of our youngest campers who are just turning six who are really excited to come to camp and some of our CITs -- Counselors In Training -- who are just hitting that 18-year-old mark. And some who are actually coming back to join us as counselors.

So you can really see the cycle that begins at a very young age, gives these children kind of like the community that they need to network with other people who may be experiencing grief and they can, you know, age with the counselors and be able to give back to that community once they reach adulthood.

Margot: Do you see a dramatic difference between, let's say when a child enters the camp and then when they leave?

Margot: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we've had so many kids that come in and are expecting a therapeutic camp that is very focused about talking about cancer, and if they don't really want to engage in that, they can just go play with the other kids. And, over time, it opens them up and they start to think really critically about what they're going through and what others have gone through. So it's amazing for those kids to just really interact with the fun in childhood and, I think, kind of just the meaning of the camp itself.


JULY 9-14

You can call (559) 825-6990 for more information or register here.
Related Topics:
community-eventsfresno statevalley focuscamp
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