The Issue: Psychological Effects of Cancer on Youth
Nearly 600,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer in 2013, according to data from the American Cancer Society. Many of these people will have children. When parents face life-threatening illnesses, it can put an indescribable strain on their family—especially their kids, who can face isolation, low self-esteem, and depression that can hurt them academically and socially. But by finding a setting where they don’t need to think about cancer, they can relax some, reducing both stress and emotional suffering.
The Campaign: Hosting a Camp for Kids Affected by Cancer
All donations to this Grassroots campaign will be used by Camp Kesem USC to provide a weeklong summer camp at Pathfinder Ranch for children who have a parent with cancer. For every $500 raised, Camp Kesem USC can sponsor one child in its first camp. Thirty children aged 6–16, along with 15 counselors, will attend the camp, receiving all food, travel, lodging, and equipment for free. At the camp, they have the opportunity to form a lifelong support community and take a break from the thought of cancer while they play, participate in traditional camp activities, sing songs, and talk about whatever's on their mind in "Cabin Chats."
Camp Kesem USC
The lake sparkles in the sunlight. Mountains loom on the horizon. Pigs and horses lounge in the heat while kids scramble across a ropes course and shoot hay bales with arrows. But this typical summer-camp scene has another layer that isn't so typical, nor obvious at a glance: a level of understanding and support. At Camp Kesem USC—one of 41 Camp Kesem chapters across the country—all the kids in attendance have a parent who has been diagnosed with cancer. These students spend a week escaping the everyday stresses at home, participating in arts and crafts, canoeing, hiking, songs, and even "Cabin Chats" where they have free rein to talk anything they want to with their peers and counselors. A therapist stays on hand to help the campers throughout the week—but only if they need it. The camp focuses on distracting the kids from their issues, never forcing them to discuss their home lives.
The USC Camp Kesem chapter formed under the guidance of two University of Southern California students, Amanda and Atineh. Amanda noted that one camper in particular inspired her: a five-year-old boy who is afraid his father will pass away while he's at school. But “he keeps going every day,” she said. To help him and others like him take a break from these fears, Camp Kesem USC aims to let kids be kids—an ideal exemplified in everything from the camp’s mascot, Karl the Caterpillar, to the quirky nicknames each counselor and camper adopt.
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