Camp Kesem offers a getaway for children affected by parent’s cancer

. January 30, 2017.
Morgan, Gregory and
Nathan Zickes pose with
a group of Camp Kesem
counselors.
Morgan, Gregory and Nathan Zickes pose with a group of Camp Kesem counselors.

Camp Kesem is a national organization
that is sponsored by more than
80 colleges and universities where
the camps are managed and run by
passionate student leaders. Camp
Kesem offers a FREE week of camp to
children ages 6-16 who have been affected
by a parent’s cancer. My children
attended their first Camp Kesem
in August 2013, just one month before
their father passed away from Stage 4
Pancreatic Cancer. They have since attended
every summer, as well as camp
reunions twice a year. CK has been a
game- changer for our family and we
can’t imagine our lives without it.

What Camp Kesem is NOT

It’s important that people understand
this week of camp is NOT spent
moping, being sad, and constantly
talking about cancer. It’s NOT spent
in counseling sessions and children
are never obligated to share thoughts
or feelings they don’t want to. With
the exception of 30 minute cabin chats
at the end of each day and an Empowerment
Ceremony one evening, the
remainder of camp is like every other
summer camp; kids having fun just
being kids.

Over time, the Empowerment Ceremony
has come to mean much more to
my daughter Morgan. In her words,
“The Empowerment Ceremony has
made such an impact on me because
it was a much needed reminder that
it’s okay to let down your guard and
ask others for help. A reminder that
no matter what happened in my situation,
I could find courage and inspiration
from my friends at camp.”

“A child’s friend through and
beyond a parent’s cancer.”
® -Camp Kesem motto

Camp experiences and activities are
everything you would imagine summer
camp to be; right down to having
camp nicknames. It’s the foundation
of Camp Kesem, however, that makes
it so unique. The children have a bond
of understanding they can’t find anywhere
else. “It allowed me to express
my feelings and to be free from people
who don’t understand how I feel”,
said Lindsey Gutermuth from Indiana.
Along with her siblings, she has
attended Camp Kesem for six summers;
during and after her father’s
battle with cancer.

Nate “Waldo” McCormick, a four
year CK counselor, sums up camp:
“Kids at camp learn that it’s okay to
cry. It’s okay to be sad. But they also learn how to jump right back into
life, and to take on every challenge
that comes their way.” Cody “Mufasa”
Ferrantino was a CK student
leader for four years, and is currently
a CK National Program director. “Going
to Camp Kesem gives campers a
new community built on understanding
and shared experience that will
support them no matter what. When
you’re with your Camp Kesem family
you don’t have to explain what it’s
like to have a parent with cancer or the
challenges of growing up quickly. The
other campers understand and know
what you’re feeling, because they feel
that way too.”

“camp is NOT
spent moping,
being sad,
and constantly
talking about
cancer.”

There’s a camaraderie among campers at Camp Kesem Notre Dame at Camp Storer in Jackson, MI.

Additional information and
registration

Registration for summer 2017 opened January
15. Camps fill up quickly. Through
the Camp Kesem website you can search
for camps geographically. For people
in Northwest Ohio, possible options are
through The University of Notre Dame,
Ohio State University, University of Michigan,
and Case Western Reserve. campkesem.org

Karen Zickes is the mom to three amazingly
brave children and a freelance writer who
resides in Holland, OH.