Camp Kesem chapter begins to bloom at CNU

The national organization to benefit children of cancer patients seeks support as an official campus organization

Camp Kesem is a nonprofit organization that offers free summer camps to children and teens whose lives have been impacted by a parent’s cancer. The camp aims to create a support system for kids who have a parent who has had cancer, is currently undergoing cancer treatment or has passed away because of cancer.

According to their website, Camp Kesem was founded in 2000 at Stanford University and currently has 116 chapters in 42 states. The camp works to provide support to children both during and after their parents’ battle with cancer, and it works to create a welcoming and inclusive environment where kids can feel less alone in their experiences. 

CNU freshman Graciela Greger was touched by her experience as a camper at Camp Kesem this past summer and wants to bring that opportunity to youth in the Newport News community.

Greger has a passion for helping others, and this passion led her to look into what it would take to start a chapter of Camp Kesem at CNU.

“There’s a lot of resources for patients, but not for families, especially for young kids and teens,” Greger said. “I wasn’t planning on starting a chapter right away when I got here because I’m a freshman… but I figured that the sooner we start, the better. That way we can have our first summer of camp a lot sooner.”

Some of Greger’s favorite things about her experience at Camp Kesem were the friendships she made, the growth she saw in herself as an individual, and how she felt less alone in her experiences.

Even though the unifying theme amongst campers is their parents’ cancer, the camp is anything but depressing despite what one may initially think.

Camps are held at campsites across the United States, so campers get the real summer camp experience. Throughout the week, campers and counselors are called by camp nicknames they get to choose for themselves. Campers are not allowed to use their  phones during camp week, but Greger commented on how she barely noticed because everyone was so busy getting to know one another and having fun together. 

Greger’s goals for the CNU chapter of Camp Kesem are to engage in both the Newport News and CNU communities, build a greater sense of camaraderie on campus and to make a difference in the world. 

In order to make a CNU chapter of the national organization of Camp Kesem a reality, there is a lot of planning and campaigning that must be done first.

Greger explained that the first steps in achieving her goal of bringing Camp Kesem to Newport News will be successfully submitting an application.

Like all new organizations on campus, those interested in creating a chapter of Camp Kesem on campus must submit a formal application to the university.

The application is essentially a proposal, and Greger must have every detail organized before she can submit the forms. She has been working diligently to secure potential locations for the camp to be held, professional staff, including counselors and nurses, community sponsors and donors, and she has even reached out to Newport News Public Schools.

A major part of Camp Kesem as an organization is that the event is driven by college students. Greger has been working on campus  at CNU to secure a team of dedicated students to fill leadership positions, plan the logistics of the camp and be involved during the week of camp as counselors and administration. 

So far, there are 78 students from CNU who have shown interest in joining the club. 

Once the application is submitted, and assuming that their application is accepted, the next step will be the voting campaign. 

In the voting campaign, campuses across the United States compete to start chapters of Camp Kesem, and the top four to six campuses with the most votes will get to make their dreams a reality.  

“[Camp Kesem] would be a great addition to the Newport News community,” Greger shared. “It’s very much a family, it’s very much a community. You take something so terrible, cancer, and you find the joy in it and you are able to connect with people who can actually understand you. I’m really passionate about making this a reality.”

If you are interested in helping to bring Camp Kesem to children and teens in the Newport News community, contact Graciela Greger at for more information.

~Taylor Vigil, Staff Writer~

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