Camp Kesem to expand summer program to two weeks


Source: Camp Kesem Northwestern Facebook

Northwestern counselors host an activity with children attending a Camp Kesem session over the summer. Every year, the group organizes a camp for children with a parent affected by cancer.

Kimberly Go, Reporter

Northwestern student group Camp Kesem is looking to expand its program, which helps children whose parents have cancer, to host two weeklong summer camps in the upcoming academic year.

Every year, Camp Kesem holds one free weeklong camp session for children ages 6 to 16 with a parent who has died from cancer, is being treated for cancer or is in remission. The camp’s directors said they hope to expand the program to accommodate its high attendance.

“We’re really trying to play it up this year,” Camp Kesem co-director Kaila Zogheb said. “It’s always just been one week (of camp). I think last year we had 85 campers, so to continue to grow we would need to move to two weeks (and have) two different sets of kids.”

Zogheb, a Weinberg senior, said the group has funding left over from the previous year and hopes to use it to hold two camps this year.

Medill sophomore Teresa Balistreri, Camp Kesem’s public relations and marketing coordinator, said the planned expansion shows NU students’ willingness to volunteer.

“I think it’s awesome that so many students at Northwestern are excited about spending their time, volunteering their time, to help this cause,” Balistreri said. “If we have a longer camp, we just get to help more kids.”

Camp Kesem, named for the Hebrew word for magic, was started at Stanford University in 2001. The program, now in its 10th year of organizing camps at NU, aims to create a fun and social setting for children who may face stress at home and to provide an open support group for campers to share their stories.

“Kids with parents going through cancer are obviously going through a very hard time,” said Sharyn Ioffe (Weinberg ’11), an advisory board member for NU’s Camp Kesem. “(Camp Kesem) is a chance for children to focus on themselves, get away from stress and build their own self-esteem.”

The camp also allows attendees to “find comfort in one another and build really good support systems throughout the year,” Ioffe said, adding that her most impactful Camp Kesem experience took place when she was a teen camp advisor.

“One of the girls who (initially) wasn’t ready to talk was able to talk during our cabin chat. She got relief from holding everything inside with people she was comfortable with,” Ioffe said.

Because Camp Kesem is free for all participating kids, members fundraise during the academic year with different activities including ticket sales to an event in Chicago and bake sales on campus. 

“(Camp has) been way more than anything that I could’ve imagined,” Zogheb said. “A lot of (the kids) are saying that they look forward to (Camp Kesem) every year, and they don’t want to go home at the end of the week.”