When Emily Robinson’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, she would have loved the chance to get away for a week to enjoy childhood, instead of worrying about chemotherapy and the terrifying uncertainty.
A high school student at the time but now a recent graduate of Southern Utah University — her mother is a cancer survivor — she is a part of a team of students putting on a southern Utah camp for children who parents have or had cancer.
Camp Kesem is a national nonprofit organization that provides a free camp to children ages 6-17 that is located at 54 different universities across the country. Funded, organized and operated by SUU student volunteers, Camp Kesem gives children an opportunity to take a break from the stress of cancer and just be kids, as described by Robinson.
“These children may not be diagnosed with cancer, but having a parent affected by it is just as stressful,” explained Robinson. “As a kid whose parent had cancer I wish I had an outlet like this to take a break and just be a kid.”
The camp — similar to a sleep away summer camp — features sports, art, drama activities and nature hikes. But unlike other summer camps, at Camp Kesem every camper in attendance has had an experience with cancer in his or her immediate family and they participate completely free-of-charge.
One camper said, “My family would never be able to afford a camp like this. I felt like I could just be a kid at camp and walk away from cancer for a few days. All the kids knew exactly how I felt.”
A parent whose child attended Camp Kesem said, “Camp Kesem is the one good thing that has come from my cancer. My children have benefited greatly from attending the camp. It was a place they could be accepted and learn they can still be happy.”
Not wanting to give another financial burden to families, Camp Kesem organizers and student volunteers are tasked with fundraising. Robinson explained that with admitting 70 children for the 2014 SUU Camp Kesem, volunteers need monetary donations to allow a kid to be a kid.
“With 70 children planning on attending Camp Kesem this summer and we don’t want to turn away any of them because of lack of funding,” said Robinson.
Donations of any size are welcome and can be given at www.campkesem.org/southern-utah under the Camp Kesem Southern Utah link. Donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 9558, Cedar City, UT 84720.