The adventures, friendships and confidence gained during a week at sleepaway camp can benefit any child. But at Camp Kesem by the University of Michigan, it all means even more.
That’s because this free overnight camp is for kids who have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.
“A focus of all of our programming is on really giving these kids a week away just to have fun and be kids again,” says Colin Case, a co-director of the University of Michigan’s Camp Kesem chapter – one of 116 university-led chapters around the country (Grand Valley State and Michigan State universities also have offerings).
“One of the things we hear most commonly is kids who have a parent with cancer are taking on roles they wouldn’t typically have to do. (At camp) they can just be themselves and experience the joys of childhood and be surrounded by people who really understand what they’re going through.”
The camp is open to kids ages 6-18 who have a parent who is currently battling the disease, is in remission or has passed away. Now in its 13th year, the U-M chapter served about 240 kids last year – most from southeast Michigan – and hopes to welcome between 270 to 290 campers this summer.
“We also provide support throughout the year,” says Asavari Rajpurkar, public relations coordinator. “We have a lot of reunions with our campers, and we provide them care packages during times of grief.”
There’s a pressing need to support this community of children, Case says. “This is an extremely underserved population. We’re the only national organization at this point that’s dedicated to serving this population.”
Camp Kesem by the University of Michigan offers 2019 camps Aug. 4-9 and 12-17 at YMCA Camp Copneconic in Fenton. Admission to the camp is free and there’s no deadline to register.
For more information about the camp, or to learn how you can help fund the camp’s cause, visit the camp website.
Photo by Kaley Wetekamp