Camp Kesem- Do it for the kids!


Photographed by: Eli Suzuki-Gill

What is Camp Kesem?

The word kesem means magic in Hebrew, so essentially Camp Kesem is Camp Magic. According to the organization’s about page, “Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer. By offering innovative, fun-­filled programs that foster a lasting community, we aim to ensure that every child impacted by a parent’s cancer is never alone.” Each chapter spends the year fundraising for the kids in their area who have been affected by their parent's cancer to go to Camp Kesem in the summer for a week of camp magic. I talked to two members of the UC Irvine chapter, Pickles and Suds, to find out more about Camp Kesem at UC Irvine:



Fourth year at UC Irvine




Second year at UC Irvine

Treasurer of coordinator board

What’s the typical schedule while at camp?

Suds: “The first thing always is breakfast… everyone breaks off into their units. The units are broken up by age. There’s activities like rock climbing, ziplining, the pool...or arts and crafts, everything. SO, everyone breaks up [into their units] and there's usually about four or five activities a day and you go in rounds around them and we have lunch and dinner in between. We end everyday with a closing circle first with all [units] and we have this specific song that we do and we all get in a big circle…[it’s a] good mellow way to end the day. Everyone goes back to either a usit chat or a cabin chat… [They] range from more lighthearted [topics] like, ‘who’s your hero?’ and by the end of the week it’s more empowerment style of ‘why are you here?’...  ‘will you come back?’ and ‘what’s your story?’... It gets deeper as the week goes on.”

Pickles: “It’s cool because when you go to camp, all these kids- we get ages six to sixteen- so no matter where they are on that age spectrum, they’ve all experienced something very similar. It’s really cool to see throughout the week how they open see the love and support that's reciprocated throughout every single one of them who whatever’s being said or whoever’s saying it…[Cabin chats] are empowering moments.”


Photographed by: Eli Suzuki-Gill

Why do you use camp nicknames and who chooses?

Suds: “They come up with the most random things, they go from their favorite their favorite food...then we have people who just make up their names… it’s impossible to forget because we’ve never heard a name like that before… They’re so random and none of them are the same.”

Pickles: “It’s all about the magic of camp. These kids have these home lives… obviously, they deal with the stress of growing up: they have school, they have friends, they have all these things that kids go through as they grow up. On top of that, they have a parent that may or may not still be with them that is either going through or has gone through this thing called cancer… All these kids have gone through it or are going through it, so when we give them this week that is away from that reality, having a name that’s just fun and whatever they want and that represents what they just a way to sort of get them out of that world that is their reality and into this world that is the magic of Camp Kesem.”


Photographed by: Eli Suzuki-Gill


Why do you Kesem?

Suds: “It’s a demographic that isn’t always thought of, that’s why I did it. People usually think of the parents, and they don’t think of the kids in these situations… Do it for the kids, why would I not.”

Pickles: “People usually think of the patients, but not the families… I Kesem because I can, and honestly why would I not want to.”


Photographed by: Eli Suzuki-Gill


How can YOU Kesem?

  • Join Camp Kesem at UC Irvine or find a chapter near you!

Camp Kesem at UC Irvine:

Email: [email protected]



Find a chapter:

  • Donate now! Follow the link below to Kesem’s donate page and select Camp Kesem at UC Irvine.


  • Spread the word! Share this article to share the magic of Camp Kesem.


Photographed by: Eli Suzuki-Gill


Do it for the kids!