History of Kesem
For the past ten summers, Camp Kesem – a college-student-run summer camp for kids whose parents have (or have had) cancer – has provided plenty of laughs and lots of emotional but non-therapeutic support.
This week of sleep-away fun and friendships forged in a safe, compassionate and cancer-aware environment had its beginnings in 2000, when four Stanford University student leaders chose to change the lives of children in their northern California community.
Bringing Magic to Families Coping With Cancer
Working with Hillel at Stanford, staff member Iris Rave helped the four student leaders set up Camp Kesem. The group chose the word Kesem, which means “magic” in Hebrew, because its goal was to bring “magic” to families coping with cancer. Since its inception, Camp Kesem has been open to student leaders and campers of any religion, race or ethnicity.
Thanks to the hard work of many student leaders, Camp Kesem at Stanford hosted 37 campers at its first one-week summer camp in 2001.
Word quickly spread and the Stanford student leaders encouraged their friends at colleges across the country to replicate Camp Kesem in their communities. Based on the success of the Camp Kesem project at Stanford, Iris Rave also founded Camp Kesem National in August 2002 to help college students from coast to coast start similar programs.
An Inspiring and Empowering Experience
Each year since its founding, Camp Kesem has improved upon its model, finding new tools for inspiring and empowering students so they can become better leaders who run even richer and more fruitful Camp Kesem programs.
Between 2001 and 2010, Camp Kesem grew from a single campus hosting 37 campers to a national movement serving over 1200 campers at 23 camps.