Camp Kesem

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Camp Kesem is a nationwide community, driven by passionate college student leaders, supporting children through and beyond their parent's cancer. Camp Kesem is a growing national movement, transforming more lives each year. Since 2001, Camp Kesem has grown from a single camp, to 62 active chapters in 29 states.

Kesem (n.): magic; the ability to change a life; an agent of growth; the unique power that transforms kids into Camp Kesem Campers


The first Camp Kesem project was founded at Stanford University in 2001 as a project of Hillel at Stanford, a nonprofit serving Jewish students at the University. The project was developed by founder, Iris Rave, and a group of student leaders who sought to create a magical summer camp experience for children in need.

After assessing the needs of the community, the students found that children who have, or have had, a parent with cancer comprised an under-served population who could benefit from a summer camp experience with peers who faced similar challenges.

The Camp Kesem project at Stanford hosted its first summer session in June 2001 free of charge to 37 campers. Since then, the project has continued and has grown each year to engage more student volunteers and serve more children across the country.

Based on the success of Camp Kesem at Stanford, Iris Rave founded Camp Kesem National in August 2002 to share the Camp Kesem project model with college campuses across the nation.

Staff and Board of Directors[edit]

Jane Saccaro, Chief Executive Officer (Camp Name “Pocket”) Jim Higley, Chief Development & Marketing Officer (Camp Name “Pops”) Aaron Hadley, Chief Operating Officer (Camp Name “H”) Cristin O’Leary, Development Manager (Camp Name “Babalu”) Mai-Lan Pham, Marketing Manager (Camp Name “Mama”) Lauren Ellis, Alumni Relations Manager (Camp Name “Marzipan”) Lauren Trani, Development Associate (Camp Name “Peanut”) Liz Firestone, Manager, Programs and Operations (Camp Name “Phishy”) Abby O’Leary, Manager, Programs and Operations (Camp Name “Avocado”) Jenna Barnett, Program Director (Camp Name “Goose”) Tracey Landstrom, Program Director (Camp Name “Pebbles”) Cortney Lebeda, Program Director (Camp Name “Jazz”) Mark Manning, Program Director (Camp Name “Shaggy”) Alex Monyhan, Program Director (Camp Name “Lola”) Marty Shamon, Program Director (Camp Name “Goofy”) Kayla Ferdon, Executive Assistant (Camp Name “Yogini”) Fanny Wilson, Accountant (Camp Name “Bean”) Scott Arizala, Camp Director (Camp Name “Funsize”)

Collegiate Chapters[edit]

Arizona State University Augustana College Brigham Young University BYU-Idaho Case Western Reserve Carnegie Mellon Central PA Chestnut Hill College of William and Mary Columbia Cornell Emory Florida State Fresno State George Washington Indiana John Hopkins Miami Michigan State MIT Northern Arizona North Carolina (Duke) Northwestern Ohio State Princeton Rice Saint Louis Santa Clara Southern Utah Stanford Stony Brook Syracuse Texas A&M UC Berkeley UC Davis UC Irvine UC San Diego UC Santa Barbara UC Santa Cruz UCLA University of Colorado University of Florida University of Georgia University of Illinois University of Michigan University of Minnesota University of Missouri University of Nebraska University of Notre Dame University of Oregon University of Oklahoma University of Pennsylvania University of Richmond University of South Alabama University of Southern California University of Texas - Austin University of Virginia University of Washington- Seattle University of Wisconsin- Madison Vanderbilt Virginia Commonwealth Yale


With 1.7 million cancer cases a year in the United States, there are more than 3 million kids affected by a parent’s cancer and Camp Kesem recognizes and embraces this often-overlooked population of children. Because they don’t appear sick, their needs are often over looked and they suffer quietly, leading to academic, social, emotional, and developmental problems.

Giving Kids the Opportunity to Be Kids[edit]

Since 2000, Camp Kesem has given children affected by a parent’s cancer the opportunity to just be kids. The ever-expanding Kesem community engages in camp activities like sports, arts and crafts, and drama to give campers a fun-filled week. Campers also participate in “Cabin Chats” with fellow campers and counselors, giving children the chance to share their experiences with each other. There are plenty of laughs and lots of emotional support, but Camp Kesem does not provide therapy. The tremendous fun and support campers experience is what makes Camp Kesem a transformative, magical week for campers and counselors alike.

Empowering a Generation of Student Leaders[edit]

Camp Kesem makes a huge impact on the lives of children, but it also prepares and empowers a generation of student leaders by allowing responsible college-age individuals to make a meaningful difference. Each of our camps around the country is organized and operated by the young up-and-coming leaders of tomorrow who gain hands-on experience in fundraising, finance, marketing and project management as they bring much-needed happiness to truly deserving kids. In addition to real-world skills, Camp Kesem enables student-leaders to discover their passion for serving others.

Vision, Mission, and Values[edit]

Vision: To create a community where fun has the power to transform lives.

Mission: Camp Kesem's mission is twofold:

  • To provide kids whose parents have or have had cancer with a summer camp experience that gives them a chance to be kids
  • To allow college students to channel their passion for making a difference, while developing critical leadership skills for long-term social impact


  • Compassion
  • Community
  • Safety
  • Confidence
  • Leadership
  • Magic


External links[edit]