A Camp for Kids Dealing with Cancer in the Family

Jul 31, 2018

Participants in Camp Kesem at James Madison University in 2017. Abby Smith (inset) was a Camp Kesem camper for five years, and will be a counselor this year at JMU’s camp.
Credit Camp Kesem

A nationwide community of college students is offering a summer camp where the children of parents with cancer can have fun, and just be – and become – themselves. WMRA’s Christopher Clymer Kurtz reports.

Next week children ages 6-18 who have faced a parent’s cancer are invited to camps hosted by the University of Virginia and James Madison University chapters of the national network Camp Kesem.

JMU sophomore Abby Smith, from Glen Allen, participated for five years.

ABBY SMITH: The most amazing part about Camp Kesem is that it’s kind of a getaway from your regular life, because you’re in a group of people that know and understand exactly what you’re going through but in different severities.

She said that when she was in kindergarten, her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

SMITH: She fought most of my life. She passed away when I was in 8th grade, and that’s when I found Camp Kesem.

The UVA chapter’s camp, which is filling up fast, will be in Lowesville [August 6-12, 2018], and JMU’s will be in Charlottesville [August 5-11].

SMITH: You kind of just get a chance to be a kid at Camp Kesem. You get a chance to let go and forget about some of the things going on in your family and you just get to be yourself.

This year, Smith will be a counselor at JMU’s camp.

SMITH: It’s literally made me who I am, so I just want to give something back and help these children and let them know that they have a safe place like I did.

Registration for the free camps continues through Saturday [August 4].