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Coping with cancer through camping

How one organization at Hamline is attempting to help kids affected by cancer cope.

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Coping with cancer through camping

Emilia Nolan, Reporter

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Unfortunately, some children have felt the impact of cancer. Whether it be personally, indirectly or through other external resources, it is often difficult for young children to comprehend the effects, consequences and treatments of such a disease. However, a national organization has attempted to resolve this issue while also providing volunteer opportunities to those passionate about helping others.

Camp Kesem is a national, non-profit organization that provides a free camping experience to children ages six to eighteen who have been affected by one or both parents’ cancer diagnoses. It began in 2001 at Stanford University with the mission to help children cope with the diagnoses, and it is today the largest organization dedicated to supporting children impacted by a parent’s cancer.

According to Sophia Walker, the director of the Hamline University chapter of Camp Kesem, over five million children are impacted by a parent’s cancer in a given year.

“Last year,” Walker said, “Kesem helped to serve over 9,000 [children]. It is an organization driven by passionate college student leaders that supports children through and beyond their parent’s cancer.”

So far, already seventeen campers have signed up for the complimentary camping experience, but Walker said that they can accept 20 to 30 campers overall. The camp is taking place at Camp Koronis located in Paynesville, Minnesota, and is occurring between Jun 16 and 21, 2019.

Walker said there are already a variety of activities planned.

“Some of the activities that we will provide are arts and crafts, sports, nature walks, fun games tied to our underwater theme and an empowerment ceremony, which is [an optional] open event for kids to talk about cancer, and, of course, camp songs,” Walker said. “Each camper also has a peer, usually a college student volunteer counselor, who can understand his or her unique needs.”

Adeliah Mulli, a co-coordinator of the Hamline University chapter, is most excited for the activities they have planned for the campers.

“We plan on hosting a variety of activities, from more traditional camp activities such as bracelet-making and camp songs, to activities more specific to our chapter and campsite, like archery and kintsugi [the Japanese art of preparing broken pottery without concealing the cracks],” Mulli said. “Kesem’s mission is to allow kids a chance to be kids… to take a break from the stress of coping with a parent’s cancer.”

First-year Crystal Camacho has already signed up to be a camp counselor.

“We have an action and fun-filled schedule…with more than your fair share of water activities,” Camacho said. “But really, Camp Kesem brings kids in a similar situation together for a week of fun, in a space where they are not alone and where they are not looked at differently.”

Sophomore Anna Cuebas, a camp counselor and operations co-coordinator for Camp Kesem, emphasized that the camp is meant to help the campers with every situation.

“We have three professional specialists on site at all times, so if a camper needs to talk to someone, they are there to help them, but each counselor and co-coordinator is trained on how to deal with these types of situations,” Cuebas said.

To sign up to be a camp counselor for Camp Kesem, go to to create an account and fill out the application materials. can also be emailed with any questions about the application process.

“We always need more camp counselors,” Cuebas said.

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Coping with cancer through camping