First year of Camp Kesem Fresno State supports kids who have parents with cancer

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Camp Kesem Fresno State is for kids who have parents with cancer. (KFSN)

It's a week where kids can be kids, even during difficult times.

"I really enjoy it, it's just fun," said one camper who's using her camp name "Hay Hay."

Hay Hay says her mom has been battling breast cancer for about a year. But at Camp Kesem, which means magic in Hebrew, she and her twin sister can focus on having fun like any 9-year-old on summer vacation.

A national organization with more than 60 chapters, the Fresno State Camp Kesem chapter was approved early last year, but it took some time to get families to sign up.

"They're trusting us with their kids for a week," said Fresno State junior Navmit Dhesi. "So it takes a lot for them to believe that we're doing good with their kids."

Since then, Fresno State students have been planning and fundraising for camp, which is free for families. Like the 26 campers, ranging in age from 6 to 15, some of the 19 volunteers have had parents with cancer.

"So we're creating that community in this first camp here which is very cool to see the creation of it," said Fresno State sophomore and camp counselor Emilia Vargas. "We go from being strangers on the first day to, you know we talk at night, every night."

Campers and counselors have camp chats before bed every night, where they can talk about anything and everything. Later in the week, the kids will have an empowerment ceremony, where they can open up about having a parent with cancer.

"I'm pretty sure sooner or later it's gonna come down to that point where we do talk about it," said 13-year-old "Jim," who's here with his two younger sisters.

He says their mom just had her last round of chemo.

"I think she wanted me here to not see her be sick with the chemo and all," Jim said.

He says it will be good to talk with other kids about cancer, but mainly, he's just happy to get his mind off of it, so he can focus on being a kid.

Fresno State Camp Kesem is hoping to bring at least another 15 kids to next year's camp. For more information, click here.
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