When we found out my husband had a cancerous tumor in his abdomen 4 years ago at the age of 36 years old, we were shocked. Throughout the last 4 years, my husband has been on a chemo drug called Gleevec and has gone for routine cat scans (one just on Wednesday) to make sure everything is good on his end. It was wonderful news to see that his cat scan was clear, he’ll go back again in August.
When you go through something like this, it makes you look at life differently.
Raising awareness and sharing information to people is something that I truly became passionate about in regards to families dealing with a member going through cancer.
Recently I found out about an incredible camp that is available at Brown University (our alma mater) called Camp Kesem.
Camp Kesem is a national network of free, week-long summer camps for children affected by a parent’s cancer. When a parent is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family is affected. For children, the carefree joys and adventure of childhood are replaced with new responsibilities, anger, guilt and the fear of losing (or loss of) a parent. There are currently no other camps and few services available to these children in Rhode Island.
Camp Kesem at Brown University will be held from August 21-26, 2016 at Camp Fuller in Wakefield, RI and will open its arms to 30 Rhode Island campers. Camp Kesem is open to all children aged 6-16 affected by a parent’s cancer regardless of race, religion, economic standing, or background.
I had a chance to interview Hannah Montoya, the PR/Marketing Coordinator for the Rhode Island Chapter about Camp Kesem and why it’s so impactful.
1. Tell me about Camp Kesem.
Camp Kesem is a unique community, it’s a type of family. The entire organization is driven by college student leaders, and is aimed at supporting children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. Camp Kesem, based out of universities and colleges through out the country operate totally FREE summer camps for any child who has in some way been effected by a parent’s cancer. Kesem was originally founded at Stanford University in 2000, and has now expanded to over 70 chapters in 34 states across the country. Our chapter here at Brown University is a first-year chapter, and we are super excited to be able to offer Kesem magic to kids in Rhode Island. Kesem is incredibly unique, as it is the only national organization dedicated to this unique population of kids with parents who have cancer. Kesem provides these kids with a community of children with similar experiences who can relate. The week of camp itself is incredibly special – as it really gives kids a chance to just be kids and have fun. There’s so many fun games and activities, as well as special chances to share their personal experiences and relate to other campers.
2. Why is it personal to you to be part of this?
I am incredibly excited to be a part of Camp Kesem, especially as a first-year chapter, because I get to help build our camp and our camp traditions from the ground up. I was in 7th grade when my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I continued doing what normal teenagers did. I really tried not to acknowledge the fact that my mom had cancer, because it was easier to deal with it that way. None of my friends could really relate to the things I was going through – from the emotional drain of seeing your mom with no hair, to having to cancel plans because your mom’s chemotherapy ran late and you couldn’t get a ride. When she died right before my senior year in high school, I realized just profound an impact her cancer had had on me. Although I wasn’t the one with cancer. seeing her health decline impacted my whole family. I wish that I could’ve had the Kesem community with me while my mom was still alive. Because of this, I want to be a part of Kesem now and help to build a community for other kids.
Camp Kesem also impacted my co-coordinator Mindy. She was actually a Kesem camper when she was younger, and is now going to be a counselor! Her story is really beautiful, and she put together a video explaining her journey.
If you have any additional questions for her, you can email the both of us at [email protected]
3. How can families get information about Camp Kesem?
There are lots of ways families can get information about Camp Kesem!
Here is our website: http://campkesem.org/brown
It has lots of information, including our team of coordinators, updates about fundraising, and information for parents and campers. Our camper applications are open right now, so families can start registering to actually attend our camp this summer! There is a link on our website with information on how to apply.
Families can also get updates through our social media platforms.
Our Facebook page has lots of updates and information: https://www.facebook.com/CampKesemBrown/
Our instagram features lots of fun pics and highlights all of our coordinators!: https://www.instagram.com/campkesem_brown/ (@campkesem_brown)
Also – our twitter! https://twitter.com/campkesem_brown (@campkesem_brown)